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Spotify Testing Voice Ads That Can Pick Up Verbal Commands

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"Play Now." That’s what you’ll soon be muttering to Spotify if you want to check out the content featured in its voice ads, which are rolling out now for free users in the United States.  ( Sara Kurfeß | Unsplash )

The world's largest music streaming service is testing a new way of triggering ads that involves voice technology. As TechCrunch reports, Spotify is announcing the launch of voice-enabled advertisements, which will require a user to say something to take action on the ad's content.

The company says initial ads will coax listeners to a branded playlist or a podcast, highlighting Spotify's recent efforts to make its platform the one-stop shop for longform audio series. Spotify is trying to increase its share in the broader podcasting market; it plans to spend $500 million to acquire more podcast networks after snapping up Gimlet Media, Parcast, and Anchor. Given this, directing listeners to podcast makes plenty of sense, as is its recently uncovered test that involves inserting random podcast episodes into a playlist of song recommendations.

Spotify Voice Ads

The first few voice ads in testing come from Unilever's Axe and Spotify Studios, according to the report. One of those ads will direct users to the Spotify Original podcast Stay Free: The Story of the Clash, and another will encourage listeners to tune in to a branded playlist that's related to a Unilever Axe ad campaign later in May.

Spotify says it's only concerned with promoting in-house stuff — for now, at least. There's a chance it accommodates third-party content down the line.

Only free users in the United States will stumble upon these voice ads — premium subscribers don't encounter ads at all — provided they have Spotify's voice controls already enabled. Spotify offers in-app voice assistant technology to let listeners search music and podcasts. To turn this feature off, go to Settings, navigate to Voice-Enabled Ads, and toggle it off. There's also an option to disable microphone access entirely in Settings.

When these voice ads surface, listeners will have the option to check out the content immediately by saying "Play Now." If they say anything else, the mic will turn off and the ad break will resume as usual.

Betting Big On Voice

Spotify thinks voice ads will encourage users to check out content because people are increasingly getting interested in using voice commands and smart assistant.

"We believe voice — really across all platforms — are critical areas of growth, particularly for music and audio content," according to CEO Daniel Ek. "And we're investing in it, and we're testing ways to explore and refine our offering in this arena," he noted.

Voice ads are live in the United States and will surface on both the iOS and Android versions of the app.

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