Report – Alexa, How should Youth Brands Use Audio in 2019?

Posted on: Friday 05 July 2019 11:44am

As audio’s influence importance grows, and podcasts, smart speakers and audiobooks are increasingly part of family life, children’s brand strategies are placing audio at the heart of their media mix. This session explored how brands hope to capture the ears and interests of young people around the UK, and how they are coming to grips with these exciting new audio experiences.


  • Fast  growth across all audio experiences, with unmet demand.
  • Audio and Voice family offering needs to be better.
  • ‘Nothing not to like’ –  Audio and Voice offer something exciting and new for a child’s media world.
  • A fertile ground for innovation, but quality and detail are essential.


BBC research suggests 32% of homes with kids have smart speaker(s), with most children using them every day. 60% of kids want to listen to podcasts, but only 10% of kids actually are – suggesting there’s a big gap between what they want and what they are getting. With Audible, iTunes and other platforms available, they also need to improve their family offering in areas of discoverability, price and choice of kid specific content. Families are not aware of kids’ specific Skills or Alexa for Kids.

Smart speakers empower and encourage curiosity in young kids that can’t read and write. Voice acts as an antidote to screentime and can also be used as ‘lean in’ media allowing children to ‘colour in’ and engage deeply with things both solo and with their parents. Although it is early days, there are huge opportunities to experiment around voice and audio experiences, but a very sensitive development area where getting the experience right is essential.

Debbie Bray opened with a video; through the voices of children, the audience heard their opinions on ways they engaged with audio content types – educational, inspirational, music, audiobooks.  Audio and Voice can help them laugh, dance, calm down, learn, spark imagination and even be inspired to “one day be an explorer”. The expertise of the panel ensured a ‘hands on’ view was discussed, from leading audio brands provoking great discussion. Laura Bjelic shared Penguin’s perspective as the biggest seller of kids’ audio books, Jack Melton Bradley discussed the BBC’s audio strategy, and Will Speer experience of launching Sony’s kids and family division, included audiobooks for 2-8  year olds.

The excitement around audiobooks was key to this session, and the research shows that parents want their children to learn to listen, and the ‘snackability’ of audio helps. BBC research suggests there is a gap to be filled between what kids want and what they are getting, with 10% of kids currently listening to podcasts, but 60% of kids want to listen. Penguin sees audio as another way for kids to enjoy stories; parents see a  ‘next best thing’ to reading with audiobooks, and for bookish children a way to enhance their experience. Sony saw opportunities to develop the audio experience in many ways.

The landscape has changed quite significantly in the last five years. Penguin are tracking a shift from CD to digital download for kids audiobooks. BBC research suggest 32% of homes with kids have a smart speaker, with most children using them every day. Sony see a change in behaviour with voice inherent in our everyday lives and an empowering effect for young kids that can’t read and write.

Naturally, spoken word is a different form of media consumption for children. It is a ‘lean in’ form of media with only positive elements allowing children to ‘colour in’ bits. Parents use Alexa to play calming sounds or music before children go to sleep.  You ‘really have to listen to audio’, so kids think deeply. But Alexa is quick fire, you wouldn’t ask Alexa to read you a story. The way brands see a commercial opportunity was of interest to the panel, but equally they concluded they haven’t figured out how to monetise it.  The BBC needs to work in any areas with potential benefits to kids. Many different new opportunities for experiences: audio plays, Google Home Little Golden Books, Chompers teeth brushing.

Voice activation gives it a real stand out because it’s a friend in the home, and an ever-present companion. Podcasts are uniquely placed to provide really engaging in depth content. Platforms such as Alexa/Echo, Google and Apple Home are frontrunners, but also new platforms like Jooki are appearing. Regarding audio content distribution, none has a safe kids platform yet with the right prices. Parents still have trust issues for kids younger than 8 years.

Some of the biggest challenges faced are the ‘open rabbit hole’ of content is a problem, and kids’ voice manners. Audio book listening typically declines at 11 years old, aside from big releases. The panel observed and suggested that brands need to get into the mind of the kid to get the experience right, or they will switch off. By engaging with brands they are familiar with, deeper experiences even at the expense of reach, more kids involved in the creative process as seen in the US.


Author: Craig Hill

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