Reuters Institute of Journalism


Building on our expertise in voice technology, we worked with RISJ to investigate how news consumption has been adopted on voice devices and where the future opportunities lie for news brands in this space in the UK, US and Germany.

We set out to understand news and voice from two angles: changing behaviours and changing attitudes, with each informing the other. To understand individual behaviours and the role of voice technology in the lives of adopters, we took an ethnographic approach. We saw how users interact with news and voice in their natural home environments, and supplemented these sessions with focus group discussions in all markets to learn how attitudes and cultural acceptance of voice technology are changing – and what this means for news.

“The key to engaging consumers across all areas of adoption is to be useful.”

Of course, conversations about news also tend to encompass the speakers’ politics, values, hopes and fears for the future – getting right to the heart of how we construct a worldview. To synthesise our international findings we had to understand each of these dimensions in every market, how they differed and why.

In the event we found fascinating commonalities and differences between our markets. Users across all the sampled nations were unified in their fears about big data and surveillance, and we saw other more personal privacy concerns too: squeamishness about using a more ‘public’ method of accessing information and being overheard, even within the home. Across markets, voice is allowing users to ‘declutter’, physically and mentally – in a physical sense by replacing hardware and screen time, and in a mental capacity by promising users only the information they seek, curated and delivered in audio. Whilst generally news is confined to traditional audio media such as radio for the majority, it is creating new news occasions for enthusiastic adopters, particularly around flash briefings – indicating where broader adoption is likely to follow.

The primary takeout was that, while voice is still a long way from being optimised, the key to engaging consumers across all areas of adoption is to be useful.

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