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Spotify tests voice-enabled ads for those who prefer talking to tapping

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When you think about it, why should audio ads, like the kind you hear on Spotify, be passive, simply because you’re at the gym, or driving? You can still use your voice after all, so why not make these ads voice-enabled so that you can still interact with them, even if your hands are otherwise occupied? That’s exactly the idea the Spotify is now exploring. On Thursday, May 2, the subscription music service launched a test of voice-enabled ads on a limited basis in the U.S.

The ads, which for now only respond to the words “play now,” will be served to listeners who are using the ad-supported Spotify tier, and who have already set their app permissions to allow voice control, according to Variety. The first two of these voice-enabled ads are for Unilever’s Axe brand — which will send listeners to a related branded playlist — and Spotify Studios, which will forward listeners to the Spotify Original podcast, Stay Free: The Story of the Clash. Of course, if you stay silent, you will be returned to your playlist or whichever piece of audio you were currently listening to. We imagine it won’t be long before Amazon follows suit, now that it has its own ad-supported tier for Amazon Music.

Voice-enabled ads could potentially be a boon to both advertiser and listener alike. Audio ads may be harder to ignore than the tsunami of banner ads we see on a daily basis, but it can be hard to know if a listener paid any attention unless they engage with the ad. Adding voice as a way to interact substantially lowers the effort involved to engage, especially during activities that are hands-free by necessity. Listeners may also appreciate being able to take action on something they find relevant or interesting. “Play now” might be the first way to interact, but there’s no reason Spotify couldn’t expand to a much larger set of commands, like “bookmark it,” “send it to me,” or “remind me tomorrow.” We’re so used to interacting with our voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, being able to holler at the ads we hear just seems like a natural evolution. If it takes off, this will be one more nail in terrestrial and satellite radio’s coffin as Spotify edges ever closer to world domination.

Speaking of radio, The Verge observed what appears to be an effort by Spotify to create a virtual morning show for your drive to work. The website was offered a playlist called Your Daily Drive, which mixed music tracks with podcast episodes. Spotify has been on a podcasting acquisition streak which has been breathtaking in its scope. It likely won’t be long before its podcast pool is so deep, it will be able to come up with algorithmically chosen episodes to pair with music, for a customized “show” that perfectly matches the length of your commute. We weren’t able to conjure Your Daily Drive when we went looking for it, but we’ll definitely be keeping our eyes (and ears) open for it.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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