BY KAHO SATO
Text, photos, videos... and voice. Information in audio format looks to be the next hot medium to market in, and the increase in smartspeaker use and podcasts are just a couple indicators of that.
Voice has yet to reach the scale in Japan as it has in markets like the US, but there are budding signs that it is beginning to catch on. Podcast listening is one of them, as it's predicted about 20-30% of iPhone users, or 12-18 million people, listen to them in Japan [J]
While the term "podcast" tends to have slightly heavier connotations to it - many are produced with professional equipment and done in an official talkshow format after all - Japanese app Voicy caters to those looking to distribute lighter audio content.
Voicy started in September 2016 with the vision of creating an exciting community around voice and technology, and has since become one of Japan's leaders in the podcasting space.
Because it's designed to cater to "voice blogs" rather than full on podcasts, a person can easily create and post content from their phone, and people can quickly listen to them on the go.
Although its userbase is still relatively small, it was a top 8 news app on Japan's iOS App Store [J], and there are companies and influencers already active on the platform. It's also been experiencing positive momentum recently with an increasing amount of attention being drawn to it such as being featured in the July 2018 issue of Nikkei Trendy magazine.
There are currently more than 200 broadcasters on the platform where each has to pass a quality review before they can broadcast. Popular channels include Kahoko's "仮想銀座高級クラブかほこ (Virtual Ginza Luxury Club Kahoko)," Hayato Ikeda's "仮想通貨ラジオ (Virtual Currency Radio)" and Sauza's "サウザーラジオ～青雲の誓い～ (Sauza Radio ~ Ocean Oath)."
While many of the broadcasters are influencers and entrepreneurs who grew from blogs or social networks like Twitter, many others are taking advantage of Voicy's youth and lack of competition, and growing their initial audiences on the platform.
Voicy vs the typical podcast
Because recording and editing hurdles are lower than that of typical podcasts, broadcasters tend to post shorter audio clips more frequently that are viewed as being easier to listen to.
There's also a greater feeling of authenticity. Voicy's podcasts have a more amateur feel a la Snapchat with video, and that gives listeners a sense of closeness to the broadcaster and tends to draw them in.
Why voice is the next marketing medium
People now are constantly on the go while being bombarded with content. Unlike visual content, audio content can seamlessly enter into that busyness because it can be passively consumed. This helps save people the valuable asset of time since they can multi-task while taking in information.
As people increasingly look to maximize time and increase efficiency, quicker and smoother transactions are also sought. This is why smartspeakers like Google Home, Amazon Echo and LINE Clova in Japan are beginning to gain popularity. If this trend continues, voice media delivered and consumed on platforms like Voicy will increase as well.