The Insighters Take On Smart Speakers

this week's question
Should Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple’s HomePod, etc. have an FM chip in them?

Medium market talent: Why? Home internet connections are unmetered, and if you aren’t streaming, you should.  FM would require a decent sized antenna, and that would ruin the aesthetics of the device. Better [to improve] user experience listening to a stream that is static free.

Small market GM: To a broadcaster, whether a person listens via the stream or over-the-air makes a BIG economic difference in royalty payments for the stream, versus none for the broadcast.

Small market programmer: It shouldn’t necessarily be required, but I’m all for it.  The more places and ways people can get radio the better, as far as I’m concerned.

National digital executive: I don’t think so. Playing a station alone isn’t the smart part of these devices.  Content your audience wants when they want it is [the smart part].  And as these companies release their ‘Radio APIs,’ the bigger opportunities for radio will become apparent.

Major market talent: No. It’s not a mobile device. Of course, I don’t believe that a phone needs an FM chip, either. If I want to listen to an FM station at home, I have a radio with a better set of speakers next to the Echo.

National digital consultant: This has been a major gripe of mine with all of these “Alt” branded launches lately. You need a unique brand to stick out on these devices. Yes, some of them are adding the ability to figure out who you want based on your location.  However, in the infinite dial world, if I say, “Play Alt 92.3” wanting New York but getting New Orleans, then I’m going to forget about trying the next time.  Or, what happens when someone says “Play ESPN Radio,” but get the national feed instead of the local PBP they’re looking for?

The industry has not adapted to branding digitally in any form after all these years.

National digital executive: Amazon is fixing this in their radio API. UK Radioplayer is already doing smarter geo-location for things like ‘Play Heart FM,’ where there are 40 or so options in the UK.

Small market news reporter: I like the idea of the FM chip in smartphones. I have one in my own smartphone and use it often. It’s not a good fit for a smart speaker, though. Not only are there the antenna issues, but you have to talk to the speaker to get audio…where on a smartphone, you can use a simple app, and not have to use the phone’s voice assistant.

Home stereo tuners get their best reception with one of those wire antennas on the wall. No one is going to do that for a smart speaker. Thus, with a power cord antenna, what happens if the signal is sub-optimal? Switching to the stream is not going to be seamless.

Small market GM: The power cord could be that antenna, and voice activation could also control an FM chip. Also, when you ask for your local KISS station using the FM chip, it wouldn’t pull in KIIS-FM from Los Angeles like my Echo Dot does using the streaming access.

Major market talent: One thing to ponder about this: NPR was very early in getting their member stations integrated on the platform. If you asked for news, you got NPR by default. I think it’s smart to put your station on these platforms, but the user experience needs to be simple. The more words you have to remember to get to your station, the more likely the user gives up and says “Alexa, play Spotify.”

wanna play
If you’d like to join the fun of The Insighters, we’d love to hear from you.  Send a note to radioinsighters@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself!

1 Comment
  1. Anthony Belle says


    I will use my phone to talk on the phone and use my radio to listen to music, news, weather, and sports.

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