Voicebot polled readers and asked them to rate 26 stories and events that had received high page view traffic and social sharing in 2017. Our goal was to determine what the Voicebot audience thought was the top story of 2017. The winner by a large margin was the introduction of monetization for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The rating average for all responses was 2.74. The second ranked story was Amazon selling over three million Echo devices on Prime Day landed at 3.17. However, the monetization storyline came in as the clear leader at 3.97. The top 10 in order were:
- Amazon and Google both introduce monetization for skills / voice apps
- Amazon sells over 3 million Echo devices on Prime Day
- Amazon Echo Show launch
- Google Assistant launches on Android phones worldwide
- Google pulls YouTube from Echo Show
- eMarketer says 61 million to use voice assistants in U.S. in 2017
- Amazon introduces calling and messaging through Alexa
- Amazon changes Alexa policy to restrict advertising monetization
- Amazon starts shipping Echo to 89 countries
- Amazon initiates skills rewards program for developers
Amazon News Dominates
What is clear from the above list is that Voicebot readers thought Amazon dominated the news cycle, mostly to its advantage. There were plenty of Google-oriented stories in the top 20, but they were less popular among readers. I thought that “Google and Walmart collaborate on voice commerce,” (No. 12) and “Google enters Australia, Canada and France ahead of Amazon,” (No. 15) both deserved top 10 placement. Interestingly, Google and Amazon both get essentially equal billing in the top five spots.
However, Amazon is still benefiting from its early mover advantage and a torrent of new product and feature launches to own copious news cycles. In many ways, this makes sense because Google has played catch-up most of 2017 and the other global players got started even later. The balance of news of import should shift in 2018.
You may also note that the ratings didn’t receive a year-end or recency bias. The top 10 stories were evenly distributed between the first-half and second-half of 2017.
The News That Wasn’t
The stories that were less popular in retrospect but had high readership at the time included Apple HomePod launch announcement and then launch delay, Google Home Max launch and Google Home entry into the UK and Germany. The biggest story of they year in terms of page views was Amazon Alexa skills surpassing 15,000. Voicebot readers ranked this as No. 22. I think it is fair to say the Alexa skill growth rate merited a top 10 story of 2017, but maybe not any of the individual stories. Also, Voicebot’s page views were high on these stories in part because we were the first publication to break many of them.
The News that Voicebot Broke
In terms of news that Voicebot was first to report on, the top seven in order of page views were:
- Amazon Alexa skill count passes 15,000 in the U.S.
- YouTube back on Echo Show
- Survey says 18.8 million Amazon Echo devices sold
- Whatsapp ready to launch on Google Assistant
- Amazon Alexa 82 percent smart speaker market share
- Amazon Alexa monetization introduced on Jeopardy! skill
- Bezos says 20 million Alexa devices sold
The Real Top Voice Assistant Stories of 2017
It will surprise no one that 62% of the survey respondents work in the industry related to voice assistants. These are the types of people most motivated to vote on story of the year and comprise a big portion of Voicebot’s readership. They are also the type that are keenly focused on monetization. I have no issue with monetization being the top story voted by the readers. However, I think there were three bigger stories of 2017. These weren’t necessarily choices for the reader poll, but they were behind almost everything that happened.
- Rapid smart speaker adoption – Without users, none of the other things really matter. The fact that smart speakers went from a novelty product to mainstream item so quickly proves that demand for voice assistants is substantial and they are headed toward regular integration into consumers’ lives.
- Global voice assistant distribution – Smart speakers and voice assistants on mobile were largely a U.S.-phenomenon in 2016. This year, we saw more manufacturers rolling out solutions in dozens of countries. Voice access to computing resources and voice assistants in particular will not be limited by geography or language. Everyone will become an adopter over time. This is a massive market.
- Google quickly closing the gap with Amazon – It is hard to overstate how far Google has come so quickly. Amazon had a two-year head start and within a single year Google has nearly matched the product line breadth, rolled out into more countries and established itself as the leading full featured voice assistant on mobile (sorry Siri). Google still has more work to do, but its latent advantages around voice recognition, search and the Android ecosystem were employed to maximum advantage in 2017.
A Look Ahead – mobile and hearables
In 2018, the smart speaker market is going to get crowded, but Amazon and Google will maintain marketshare leadership everywhere outside of Korea, China and other Mandarin speaking countries. The bigger deal will be voice assistant usage growth on mobile and through hearables. The former already has an order of magnitude more consumer reach than smart speakers and the latter is almost at parity. Finally, voice assistant access in more appliances will become common. Voice assistants will become pervasive in 2018 and remove any doubt that they represent the fastest technology adoption in history.