Cumulus has launched 300 Amazon Alexa skills for radio stations and Westwood One podcasts with the help of XAPPmedia. The launch announcement is accompanied by national advertising campaign to introduce consumers to the new Cumulus Alexa skills and how they can enable them.
Suzanne Grimes, EVP, Corporate Marketing, Cumulus Media and President, Westwood One commented in an email interview with Voicebot that this rollout represents the largest collection of custom skills available on Amazon Alexa. She said that TuneIn and iHeart have one skill with multiple streams while Cumulus has opted to roll out each station as a separate skill to enable easier listener access, better customization and more in-depth listener analytics.
Smart speakers are an important new distribution channel for radio. The key behind the Westwood One | Cumulus strategy is that the skills are accessed individually, but they are architected as an integrated network. That offers the combined benefits of local listener engagement and station brand recognition along with insights and content access on a national basis…At an aggregated network level we will have access to valuable data and insights on this rapidly-evolving audio ecosystem.
Promoting the Cumulus | Westwood One Alexa Skills
A big part of the Cumulus rollout is promotion. The company is initiating a national marketing campaign to raise awareness that listeners can access Cumulus radio stations and Westwood One syndicated shows through Alexa. Grimes commented:
Local on-air promotion is the cornerstone of the program. The campaign will reach over 67 million listeners each month. Many additional people will experience social videos from influencers as well. The stations are creating custom promotional messages that match their unique sound and personality.
Grimes went on to say that the promotional efforts are designed to both drive skill discovery and evaluate which methods have the largest impact.
Helping Listeners and Brands Take Advantage of Voice
The obvious question for Cumulus is why it has made such a big commitment to voice. Ms. Grimes summed up the strategy succinctly:
“As experts in sound activation, we want our content to be where our listeners are, and we want to be able to provide insights, opportunities, and best practices to our partners. Westwood One has 8000 affiliate partners and hundreds of national advertiser clients. We expect everyone in radio to eventually commit to voice. It’s a remarkable opportunity for the industry and early movers will have several advantages. We’re excited about not only the growth of our network, but our ability to promote and expand awareness and help with the issue of discoverability for our brand partners…National advertisers are curious about voice-marketing – it’s an entirely new way to interact with consumers…Now more than ever, national and local advertisers need to consider their sonic brand.
XAPPmedia as a Partner for Voice
When Cumulus decided to make this commitment to voice, they looked for a partner that could help execute the implementation. The media announcement states:
“XAPPmedia was the clear choice…given the company’s expertise in Voice and AI technologies, strong relationships with radio broadcasters, and the XAPPmedia One Voice AI™ SaaS platform that automates deployment and management of voice apps for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana.”
It is clear that speed to market and the ability to handle scale was a goal for Cumulus for the initiative. XAPPmedia CEO Pat Higbie commented:
Cumulus challenged us to move quickly because they wanted to have an immediate impact; no company has brought hundreds of media properties as individual and local custom skills to Amazon Alexa with this speed and at this scale.
Higbie also commented separately that XAPPmedia led the roll-out in collaboration with the Cumulus | Westwood One project team and support from hundreds of station managers and staff. The company is providing an ongoing managed service that will maintain and update the Alexa skills over time.
Accessing the Cumulus Station Network
As of this morning, Cumulus has 302 Alexa skills. If you would like to try out some of the Cumulus stations you can say, “Alexa enable:
- Christmas Radio skill
- Ninety-five five, K-L-O-S skill
- Nash F.M. ninety-seven three skill
- Cat Country ninety-six skill
- Ninety-five X skill
- Zach Sang skill
- Red Eye Radio skill
Or you can search Cumulus Media in the Alexa Skill Store and try out 295 others. The rapid rise in smart speaker adoption has shown big media brands like Cumulus that voice assistants are becoming an important channel for reaching consumers.