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Podcast with Tim McElreath: Voice Technology, Multi-Modal Devices & The Future of Linear Programming

For the episode audio, please check out our podcast page. 

Terry Tateossian (00:03):

I’m excited to introduce today. Our guest, Tim McElreath. Tim is the director of technology for emerging platforms at Discovery, Inc. Welcome.

Tim McElreath (00:41):

Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Terry Tateossian (00:50):

Thank you for being here. So you’ve had an incredible career starting from UBS, or actually come and going all the way back into our school. Tell us a bit about that.

Tim McElreath (01:06):

Okay. I’ll try to make it sound incredible. I it’s true. I actually have my degree from the Rhode Island school of design back a long time ago. Actually, my degree is in photography and this was in days before digital photography. So my unfortunately technology caught up to me and made my degrees sort of antiquated within a few years. And within, within a few years I started working in technology in New York. I had always been programming. My father was a computer programmer since about 1963. He started in a machine works factory in central Massachusetts making parts for textile mills. And this was when computers were the, you know, it took up an entire room and were run off of punch cards. So we always kind of had computer equipment around and, and did did programming when I was growing up.

Tim McElreath (02:02):

So it really didn’t intimidate me. After I graduated from college and moved to New York, I, my first technology job was working for the Albert Einstein college of medicine in their graphics department. And they needed to put some of their departments on their intro web, which was a brand new concept at the time in the mid to late nineties. And they literally could not find anybody to do it. And since I had a little bit of programming, I started doing that. And around that time, if you had that kind of experience, you know, that first internet boom was what’s happening, you kind of got sucked into that world. So I started working for doing consulting for a computer sciences corporation and, and you know, some publishers, things like that in the late nineties, early two thousands. And that turned into jobs in financial services.

Tim McElreath (02:58):

I worked for bank of America Merrill Lynch for about eight years. And it took a while and it took a major economic collapse for me to have take stock and realize that it wasn’t really the kind of work I was interested in doing you know, financial services is a fascinating field. It’s just not the one. I was fascinated this. So I took the jump and decided to leave that company and kind of start over again, kind of reset my career. So I took some contracting jobs, you know, with a couple of, you know, I worked for a federal reserve bank in New York for awhile on a project then got out of financial services, completely worked for a music publishing company, and then started working for digital ad agencies. First one was RGA, which is one of the great digital agencies of New York working largely on their Nike projects. They’re, they’re very heavily associated with Nicki at the time. And so we, and we started building out applications for Nike rebuilt their Nike skateboard app, which was a big milestone in my life. Cause it was the first time in my career that something I did was considered cool by my kid.

Tim McElreath (04:11):

And I actually had to, I actually had to learn, we had to catalog about 350 different kinds of skateboard trips, learn all the terminology, you know, do data modeling around, you know, like how, how to classify skateboard tricks take, you know, multi multidimensional videos of their skate pros and then put them into the app so that it could be used as a demonstration app.

Tim McElreath (04:35):

Having said that I do not skateboard at all. I’m old enough that I would break a hip if I were to try. But that, that was fascinating. And it was really, it was a great experience for me because it brought me really close to direct user experience. You know, even though I’m not a skateboarder, it was fascinating to learn how people actually actually did the things that they were passionate about. And even though it wasn’t my passion, it’s exciting to be around other people’s passion to help facilitate building something that can, that can assist them in following their passion. So worked for worked with Nike for a while. It was a great experience. Also worked for another, another ad agency called huge, which is based in Brooklyn, which was a great experience because it was very close to where I was living at the time, again, like into work.

Tim McElreath (05:28):

And did some work for a larger the client. Did some work for Google who was doing some ad work with him for a while. And that was a, that was a great experience. But I, what I was looking for is trying to find another project where I could get closer to building out applications that kind of directly affected people’s lives you know, with their daily lives and the things that really gave them meaning. So got an opportunity to join a food network, which at the time was part of a company called Scripps networks interactive, which was the parent company of food network and HGTV. So I was joined as being for food for about a year. And then about a year in our product lead came to me with an opportunity for a partnership with Amazon on this new platform that was just starting to catch on called the Alexa.

Tim McElreath (06:28):

Amazon had released these tubes out into the public that had a microphone in it, and nobody thought that people would put a microphone in their homes connected directly to Jeff Bezos, but lo and behold, everybody bought one. And our product lead a woman named Liezel KIPP who’s who’s, you know, in my mind, a genius. You know, she really saw that this had a lot of potential for reaching our, our customers, our fans, and a new mode of communication with them, a way for them to get information and to get closer to the things that they were passionate about, you know, the talent they’re passionate about it, you know, in a garden or geode dealer. [inaudible] You know, the, the things that gave them meaning around food and food is a great subject to build applications around because it touches so many areas in our lives. You know, it’s there, it relates to our health, it relates to the way we care for our family. It relates to, you know, events in our lives or on holidays or celebrations. It just, and it’s something we pretty much have to do every day. So even, you know, beyond all that, you have to figure out what you’re going to eat every day and you tend not to want to eat the same thing.

Tim McElreath (07:44):

So, you know, having something in your, in your living room or your kitchen that you can ask questions to, and it can talk back to you seems to have like a great deal of potential for figuring out how to deliver new types of content. So this was in early 2016, so we spent a couple of months trying to figure out what a, what a first generation product would be for the echo platform around the same time. Google announced that it was going to deliver its Google home, which was essentially to the Amazon Alexa competitor. And they wanted us to build something for that as well. Also Facebook came to us and they had these new chat bot experiences that they wanted. They were interested in having us build something around that as well. So going from a small project for Amazon Alexa, all of a sudden it looks like we were building a new type of service for our content around conversation.

Tim McElreath (08:45):

And we had to do some deep thinking on how do we build content systems that can deliver to all of these platforms consistently, you know, because you want the experience on Google home to be similar to the experience on Amazon Alexa and not have to rebuild for each platform. So in that first year, we delivered the voice only experience for Amazon Alexa and Google home delivered a chat bot for Facebook messenger that did a recipe search. And the ability for people who are watching TV to talk to their Alexa device and say, this thing that I’m watching on TV, I would like to make it later. So could you save it for me? You know, it was, it was, it was a great first use case because it connected our linear broadcast TV with our digital assets. And if you think about, you know, you have, you have the desire to make something that I know is making money barefoot Contessa, you know, that journey to getting to actually look at the recipe on your kitchen counter and making it is there’s a lot of fits and starts, right?

Tim McElreath (09:47):

You have to go, you gonna have to go for a search. You may forget the recipe. You may forget about it completely. It may divert you to some other brand. You may not get what you want here. It’s sort of a direct connection via voice that you can just say out to your environment that say, you know, this thing I’m looking at, I’d like to make it later and it’s there where you expected at the time you need it. So that’s really the kind of experiences we wanted to lean into for these platforms. Something that I kind of felt magical.

Terry Tateossian (10:18):

Okay. So some of your applications, I know they’ve won awards in the past, right?

Tim McElreath (10:24):

We’ve been, we’ve been nominated for Digiday awards. We’ve we’ve been featured at the, the technology conferences for Google and Amazon Alexa. Last year at Amazon’s reinvent conference, we were sort of the future application out there. Alexa pavilion, you know, we’ve been featured in the keynotes of, of both Amazon and Google Google’s IO conference. So it’s because we’ve been launched partners with both Amazon and Google over the years. So, you know, after we delivered their initial voice platforms, they both kind of turned around and offered different variations of multimodal. Now, multimodal just means you get both voice and visual coming back. So Amazon’s began its first generation of its echo show platform, which is a smart screen Google initially launched a Google assistant on their Android phones. So you could talk to your phone and it would give you both vocal and, and visual feedback. And then they, they also branched out into smart screens, which is what what’s now the nest hub at some of their Lenovo devices.

Terry Tateossian (11:37):

So for people that are, may not be familiar we have voice only devices. We have multimodal devices and we have the smaller screens, right.

Tim McElreath (11:50):

And smart screens are really a version of multimodal. So you know, voice only devices are the ones that people are most familiar with. It’s the echo tube, you know, the echo device, the echo dot, which is the hockey puck. Sometimes they’re referred to him as the tube and hockey buck. You know, those, you know, you talk to it and we’ll talk back to you, which is, which is great for some, some sorts of interactions, you know, quick informational intro interactions where you’re saying something short and you’re expecting a short answer back. You know, what’s the weather today. You know, what, what time is my flight, that kind of thing. But there’s going to be some information where you may give a, a, a voice command and need to get something more than just a voice going back. You need to get some visual input, you may need audio, or you may need something else.

Tim McElreath (12:41):

You know, recipe search is a great example of that. You know, in general, you’re not really going to do an audio only recipe search because that, that visual aspect is very important. You know, people like to see the pictures of the food they’re there perfectly they’re, they’re looking to make. Also the amount of information is not really conducive to voice. Only if you, if you look at how you evaluate a recipe, you might scan down a list of ingredients. You may take a look at how many it serves the difficulty level, the, you know, and it’s going to be different from recipe to recipe. You know, that’s a, that’s maybe a little bit too much information for a voice only response. So the most efficient interaction is maybe searching by voice and getting a combination of voice and visual coming back at you.

Tim McElreath (13:27):

That’s, that’s what we really mean by multimodal. And then there’s going to be in these days, there’s all sorts of, you know, multimodal type interactions. You know, these, these assistants are, you know, they’re, they’re on wearables, they’re in your automobile. You know, there are different variations of IOT devices around. So, you know, everything from your lights to your thermostat, to your television, to combinations of those. And then there are also companies like Samsung who are working on their own voice platform Samsung, this is called Bixby where they’re embedding voice assistance within their appliances and their electronic devices. So you can, you know, there are refrigerators that you can talk to and there are, there are ways you can talk to, you know, TV sets and microwaves and ovens and things like that.

Terry Tateossian (14:21):

[Inaudible] So essentially, I mean, is it safe to say that pretty much anything in the future can be considered a multimodal device?

Tim McElreath (14:31):

I think that’s where we’re going. So, you know, if you think of things, you know, right now that can provide you information you know, bathroom scales going to be multimodal devices because that can plug in, you know, a bathroom scale can plug into your fitness tracker, that your that’s on your Android or iOS phone or on your Fitbit. So in that can be something that you can do, you know, haptic input, which is button pressing or voice input. You know, a lot of it’s really thinking about what the most appropriate interaction given the, given the, the, the users situational context, if I’m at my kitchen counter and I’m cooking something, you know, I don’t necessarily want to be touching things. That’s not food because I either have to wash my hands or I have to touch and then wash my hands again.

Tim McElreath (15:21):

So voice interaction becomes it makes a lot more sense. Whereas if you’re, you know, if you’re in a situation where you want privacy, then you may want to interact with the same application in a different way, because you don’t want to use your voice because I may not be appropriate for that situation. So one of the interesting design challenges is designing applications that can provide input and output that fits a number of different contextual situations so that, you know, you’re getting the same experience, but you get to kind of decide what sort of devices you want to interact with and how, how are you going to interact with them.

Terry Tateossian (16:01):

So tell us a bit about the features of the food network application. Like how, how is it going to work, for example, like you mentioned earlier you’re watching a recipe on TV. You want to make it for later, you can save it in your Alexa memory and then what happens?

Tim McElreath (16:21):

Well so we’ve built a, I mean, we have a number of different digital products, both from mobile to web to now the, the voice of multimodal and our chatbox. You know, one of the things we really want to lean into is carrying that experience one platform to another. So if I’m watching something on TV, I can use Alexa to save that recipe. So that later on, I can go to my mobile phone, look at my saves and it’s right there when I’m out shopping and have that be as seamless as possible. So just because I said something in my living room while watching TV, all of a sudden I’m in the grocery store and that recipe I wanted is right there. So that’s where I feel the real value comes in. It’s not building individual applications for a platform. If you’re building, you’re building an experience to carry somebody through step a, all the way to the end.

Tim McElreath (17:14):

And again, food is a fascinating problem space because the journey starts in one place and ends up in a very different place. Like the, the, the point of inspiration of what you want to make or what you want to learn, how to make, to gathering the ingredients, to actually doing the prep preparation and executing it. And the execution can, can go over a period of time as well. You can make, you know, like you can make a pie cross connect before and make the pie the next day. And so you have to figure out what those transition points between, you know, ingredient gathering and preparation execution are. And then there may be other, you know, other steps beyond that in terms of, you know, you want to show it off, you want to report back, you want to give feedback to it. You want to make for creations of that recipe so that you can save it for later because you know, you know, this is, this becomes something that is not just a one off. This may become a, a hacker, a tradition within your family.

Terry Tateossian (18:15):

Hold that thought, let’s take a quick break. And thank our sponsors. The production of the amplified podcast has been brought to you by social fixed, medium social fixed dizzy, transformational growth hacker agency focused on emerging technology platforms, video and podcast, production, content marketing, and overall startup strategy. Social fixed has helped over 300 clients generate millions of dollars in revenue fund raising and a profit. If you’d like help launching or growing your business visit [inaudible] dot com.

Terry Tateossian (18:52):

I’m assuming that the integration with Alexa per se, will also allow the ingredients to be purchased and automatically delivered some of the I guess cooking supplies or pans and pots or whatever equipment type you need can be automatically kind of,

Tim McElreath (19:10):

Yeah, well, anything you build for Amazon, they are going to be very interested in making a shoppable. If that’s, you know, that’s their business, right? So that’s, their whole infrastructure is based around getting somebody to a point of purchase and fulfilling that. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a great use case for Amazon specifically because, you know, they have grocery stores, they have whole foods and they have shopping lists built into their platform. So you can take your recipe and parse the ingredients, move it to a shopping list, and then have that delivered via hope foods. You can specify in your recipe, the equipment and have those be dropped into a shopping list, or, you know, hand off to an Amazon first party shopping experience to pick out a particular item that you’d like,

Terry Tateossian (19:59):

Do you see this type of product, essentially just taking the TV out of the picture and just creating a multimodal TV?

Tim McElreath (20:09):

They’re starting, it we’re blurring the line, right. So right now we’re delivering TV content over a lot of different channels. You know, food now we’re going to issue TV are kind of outliers in, in broadcast TV right now. And I say that because there, there are channels that people sit down and they will just watch for hours and hours. You know, he’ll turn on food, people turn on food network and they just let it run and they let it run through the commercials. And, you know, the, you know, advertisers love us for that. But that’s, it’s a very unusual way of watching TV. It’s definitely not the future of TV. You know, people are, we’re kind of last hold outs. So people who are gonna watch programs through commercials and watch multiple episodes of the same program. But there’s a reason for that.

Tim McElreath (21:00):

It’s a, it’s, you know, if you think about watching, you know some of the food never grade CV, there’s something very comforting about it there, the rhythm of seeing, you know, this is my own opinion on why people love it. You know, this, this calm process of taking a, you know, a chaotic situation, organizing it into something beautiful is I think just very comforting for people above and beyond the educational aspect of it. I think there’s something therapeutic about watching somebody cook and watching somebody take a lot of care either in cooking or making their home. Cause there’s a lot of kind of baggage that comes along with, you know, making and maintaining your home space that people just like to experience, even if they’re not cooking along with it, but just observing it. So, one thing we’d like to do with these multimodal devices is allow that to happen in different sorts of spaces. You know, for a smart screen on, you know, somebody who’s teaching counter, where they may have on a garden, 18 muffins, or, you know, geode showing how to do pasta making. You know, it reminds me very much of like when I was growing up, back in you know, prehistoric times,

Tim McElreath (22:16):

No, we used to have these black and white TVs that you can use to get attached, you know, underneath your kitchen

Tim McElreath (22:20):

Counter and, you know, had an antenna on it. And you just kind of watch watch things in the background while you were puttering around and, and you know why while I was washing dishes and cleaning up and preparing things, and there’s just something very relaxing about that. And also also instructional, I mean, cooking shows used to be on in the afternoon. I remember watching Julia child and the galloping and gourmet and, you know, people who try to cook along. We kind of want to replicate a little bit of that with the, with the new applications building

Tim McElreath (22:54):

And it’s educational content as well. So you’re

Tim McElreath (22:57):

Right. So I feel like we should talk about the new product that we’re building. So, you know, speaking of educational content, what we’ve been working on for the last year is a product. We call food network kitchen, which has just been launched. It’s available on iOS and Android and fire TV and Amazon echo show. And it’s a subscription service for fruit network. But unlike other subscription services, it’s not just taking the TV channel and making customers pay for it individually. You know, I don’t like nobody at discovery things, people are just going to pay for individual TV channels. What we’re trying to, to deliver is taking that TV content that people already love and expanding it out into something that’s of an education platform. So along with the TV shows you, we have literally hundreds of on demand cooking classes and we do anywhere from three to five and in the future, potentially even more live classes a day.

Tim McElreath (24:04):

So what we’re, what we’re turning this into is not just an it’s a combination of entertainment and education. Our, our CEO David’s as love, likes to say that our aspiration is to turn this into the Peloton of food, you know, and that’s especially with the way we’re approaching live classes. So we have a number of studios. We have a studio here in New York at Chelsea market in the food network kitchens. We have one in LA and we’re also doing some remote remote shoots where we have our culinary experts, as well as our, our on air talent. We’ll do anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minute cooking demonstrations. Live now, there are a couple of the couple of aspects that I really like about the live broadcast. One is the spontaneity. You know, we have people who are really great presenters, really great talkers, people who can you know, I can’t talk when I’m making food, but these people are fantastic at it, you know, but somebody like Michael Simon is a great wreck on tour while he’s cooking, talking about his family, talking about his 102 year old father and the way he cooks.

Tim McElreath (25:15):

And, you know, you know, just off the cuff stories about the types of food they’re making and his own personal history, it’s qualitatively different than watching the TV shows, which are entertaining in their own, right, but are very tightly produced. The other, the other aspect that makes it really special is that we’ve built in audience interaction. So right now, if you’re, if you’re you know, experienced a cooking class on iOS on the mobile and connected TV platforms, you can actually ask questions while the class is going on. So Bobby Flay could be making a brunch on Sunday morning, and as he’s doing it, you can type in a question, you know, it could be about his personal preferences. It could be about food substitutions, and there’s a moderator who will relay the questions to him and he’ll answer your back. And they they’re actually, they actually love doing that.

Tim McElreath (26:07):

It’s a, it’s a completely new way of, of broadcasting for the talent. And they’re, they’re really starting to get into it because it’s not just about, you know, coming up with a script. It’s more like having, you know, teaching a live cooking class with some of those people there. So what we want to do is really lean into that. So right now we have the audience interaction. We’re looking to bring that audience and direction you know, as soon as we can to the, to the voice for us platforms, you know, so I think it would be an absolutely magical experience for, you’d be watching a cooking class on an echo and be able to just ask you a question using voice. And then within a couple of minutes, you know, you know Rachel Ray will answer your question directly, back to you.

Terry Tateossian (26:53):

Right? Right.

Tim McElreath (26:55):

So there’s that, and then there’s a whole social aspect of you taught, if you think about Peloton was a model. One of the things that makes it very compelling is that you’re not only interacting with the teacher, but you have an awareness that there are other people doing the same thing you are doing at the same time

Terry Tateossian (27:11):

And the entire community. Yes.

Tim McElreath (27:12):

So there’s that, there’s that one on one interaction with the, with the, with the culinary talent, but then there’s this feeling of community that we’re all doing it together. And, you know, adding in that social aspect where if you know, you and some of your friends are taking these classes at the same time, you can kind of compare notes and compare results and things like that and make it more like actually taking an in person cooking class, which, you know, I’ve actually kind of research for this. There’s a, the ICP down here in New York, which is where you can go and actually take classes day long classes. And it’s a great experience, you know, if there’s something about people getting together and learning something at the same time, which makes the experience a lot richer. And that’s one of the, that’s one of the big value adds. We think that this product brings, and then, you know, you can watch it, you can watch those as, as you know previously live classes later. So if you’ve missed a class, you don’t, you don’t miss it forever. And then if you want to move at your own pace, you have a whole slew of on demand classes around baking and Italian food and, you know, making eggs, some cooking basics at different levels and different cuisine types to choose from.

Terry Tateossian (28:26):

Very cool. Yeah. I mean the, the community aspect, I think is just absolutely fascinating because just like with fitness and just like with Peloton and now a lot of other companies are doing it, you know, they’re integrating kind of a gaming approach to it. So you can even, you know, show off your creations and you can have an entire community kind of give their input on the ingredients, the substitutions, the technique, and so forth. Right.

Tim McElreath (28:54):

And, and there’s a lot of potential there for,

Tim McElreath (28:57):

You know, adding kind of gamification to it, you know, not necessarily making it a competitive game, but, you know, as you progress and as you learn, it become more comfortable in the kitchen. And if you can use a tool like this to feel more comfortable in the kitchen, you know, that really directly adds value to your life. You know, it, it makes you feel more independent. It makes you feel like you’re able to take care of yourself. You know, you’re more control of your health. So you’re more in control the way you’re feeding your family. And, you know, getting, allowing people to be able to track their progress, I think is, is a, brings a lot of value to the life. And also, you know, it adds there as to their relationship with the product itself, because, you know, they, you know, this is their way of tracking their progress in something that they’re passionate about.

Terry Tateossian (29:51):

So in terms of voice first or multimodal, which one do you think is going to, if you battle them out, which one’s going to win in the future?

Tim McElreath (30:00):

I think all of them. So I think it really depends on what the, how the user wants to interact with the content, right? So one thing I love about voicing multimodal and, and especially the way we’re building it out. So we’re building out on mobile or build building out our TV, we’re building it out on smart screens, and we’re going to extend out to voice only and other platforms as well. Is that the idea is that we’re not building out an app, we’re building out some, we’re building out an experienced, it crosses all the platforms and allows the user to choose the platform that they want to interact with us on based on the situation they’re in. So they may be walking around and on their phone. You know, if they, if they want to sit down in a coffee shop and watch a live class, they can do that. If they want to just sit back on the couch and watch it, they can do it. You know, they’ll get the same content, or if they want to be at the kitchen counter and cooking along with it, they can do it that way. If they’re, you know, wandering around on their mobile phone and save a recipe for later, they can go home and then ask their Alexa device. And I’m trying not to save that word too often.

Terry Tateossian (31:10):

Yes. If you’re listening to a podcast like this, you want to put your Alexa devices that will be in disclaimer.

Tim McElreath (31:19):

But you know, select a recipe on your mobile device for later. And just ask for save recipes when you get to your Alexa device at home. And there it is, it’s right there. So it’s those transitions between platforms that I think are important to us and then allowing people to actually, you know, how would you put a craft Digger, digital environment? So the way that makes it more comfortable to you, maybe people don’t want to have, you know, a device with a microphone in their homes. If they feel uncomfortable with it, it doesn’t block them from using our stuff. You know, they can use it on their phone or use on their TV, or they can use it on their website. If they like using the multimodal devices and don’t really use their phones for very much, they can, they can get that. You can get the same experience that way. So I don’t think from my point of view, it’s not really about which platform wins. And I think that’s kind of a dead end way of thinking about it. It’s what platform is most appropriate for a customer in the situation they’re in

Terry Tateossian (32:20):

As personalized as possible

Tim McElreath (32:22):

And as personalized as possible and fits even the physical context.

Tim McElreath (32:27):

So if you’re it, you know, if you are standing in your kitchen, you know, a voice multimodal makes more sense because you’re not holding something in your hand and typing on it. So voice interaction makes more and voice response makes more sense because you may be standing five or six feet away from the device and not able to read everything. Whereas if you’re experiencing application on a, on your TV, then you’re in a highly visual mode. So you’re not, you’re going to get less of a voice response because the assumption is if you’re watching it on TV, you’re, you know, or you’re in Leanback mode and you’re, you’re getting all your information visually, if you’re, you know, if you’re talking on your headphones or if you’re on an, on a, you know, voice only device, we’re going to assume that you’re in a situation where, you know, you’d get very little visual information. We’re going to give you more audio back.

Terry Tateossian (33:21):

What would be some trending data that you can share with us in terms of, you know, what you’re working on now and where you see things even going in the next five years? Like what type of new emerging technology do we have to look forward to?

Tim McElreath (33:37):

I, I think what we’re going to see is more of the trends we’ve seen in the last couple of years, which is moving away from single platforms. You know, video consumption is moving is, is, is expanding out from the TV. You know, I was just talking earlier about like a show, like the tonight show you know, I w I was mentioning that I don’t recall if I’ve ever seen an episode of the tonight show, even though I’ve seen a bunch of video content from that show on YouTube or through Facebook or through Twitter and in bits and pieces. And that’s the way I experienced that show, not necessarily on the, on the TV experience. And I think a lot of content starting to fragment out that way, that it’s getting consumed in smaller chunks that can be assembled into larger jumps.

Tim McElreath (34:26):

You know, you can think of, you know, binge watching things on, on Netflix. But the expectation is that content lives everywhere. And I think one of the big challenges is that how do you organize organize it so that people can find it as easily as possible? You know, the idea of, if I’m looking for a particular show or produce piece of short form content, where do I get it? You know, is it on, do I go to YouTube? Do I go to Hulu? Do I go to Netflix? Is it, Oh, what’s the answer? The answer is that we, we need services that kind of orchestrate people’s experience that can kind of guide them as kind of catalogs of where do I find these things. And that’s where I think voice assist assistance can be really useful, right? So it’s not necessarily delivering the content, but it knows where it can find it.

Tim McElreath (35:18):

So if you’re going to, for example, we build in our catalog into the Alexa platform, so that if you go to an Alexa device and say, I want to watch a bunch of bobbies it’ll know that that, that, that title is associated with our catalog and how to get to our application. So that the, from the experience it’s very seamless. You know, I’m a food network subscriber, I’d say, well, I’ll watch a bunch of Bobby’s. It takes me there without me having to know Headland folks, the application, and dig down, we’ll find the show. I think you’re gonna see the Google assistant platform do Alexa platforms playing that kind of role of concierge of like, I know what things you subscribe to. I knew what things are important to you. I know your habits, so I can, I can direct you more quickly to the content you tend to ask them.

Terry Tateossian (36:07):

So they’re essentially just becoming the next generation search engine.

Tim McElreath (36:12):

It is it’s a search, it’s a search engine, but it’s also a kind of a, kind of a directory service and also highly personalized. So the idea is that it’s not just finding the most popular things across all content or all, all user searches. It’s really knowing your particular habits and your particular preferences. And, you know, you haven’t control over tuning those preferences so that if I’m asking for a music, it will go to Spotify as opposed to, you know Amazon music as opposed to Apple music. Or if I, if I’m looking for video content that could exist on several different places, I decide where the, you know, where those query paths are gonna go.

Terry Tateossian (36:57):

Yeah. I mean, I’ve spoken to quite a bit of people lately that are finding it very interesting, how they’ll do a search for the first time, let’s say, on their mobile device, in the Google search engine, and it will automatically fill out and predict their strange search that they’ve only talked about, but never searched before. So I guess the lines are kind of blending and blurring and merging between voice, what it hears, what it sees, you, typing your preferences, your settings, the information and knowledge that these devices have about our environments and so forth. And they’re able to predict what we’re looking for better than we are currently half the time

Tim McElreath (37:43):

And the knowledge they have about us, which is intimidating. You know, our first, one of the first guidelines guiding principles we had when we started the emerging platforms team is don’t be creepy.

Terry Tateossian (37:56):

Yeah, don’t be groupie. It’s a good one,

Tim McElreath (37:59):

Really easy to be creepy on this, you know, especially, especially if you get personalized information now, you know, fortunately we’re working in a fairly innocuous space, you know, we’re not, we may be tracking what recipes you like and what talents you like, but that’s really so that we can give you more recipes having coded a lot of the, you know, portion of this. I can assure you, we’re not doing anything sinister.

Terry Tateossian (38:18):

No, no, no. Some people have strange food tastes,

Tim McElreath (38:23):

But you don’t, you want to make sure you’re giving people appropriate information, but you want to be careful about making it seem like you’re being, you’re being creepy. You’re kind of tracking them. So we want to be very upfront and transparent about what, what we save you know, and how we deliver information back. Because I know there’s a line there, you know, in order for people to put a microphone in their home you know, at least for the experiences that we control on it, we want to make people as comfortable with it as possible. You know, especially the fact that we’re aiming this at not necessarily a technically savvy crowd, you know, one of the nice, one of the wonderful things about the, the voice of system platforms they’ve been adopted very widely by people who aren’t techies. And because they’re, they’re very easy to grasp they have, you know, very definite use cases for a wide variety of people.

Terry Tateossian (39:24):

Hmm. Why age ranges, wide capabilities and yeah,

Tim McElreath (39:29):

Yeah. There’s been a lot of equity work done to make voice assistance, you know, very useful for, for, for older people or people in assisted living or people who may, who may have mobility problems or, you know, even you know, it’s been worked for people with dementia or to make sure that they’re, that they’re oriented and are reminded to take their medication and things like that. There’s some kind of wonderful use faces for this, but there’s also, you know, I think we developing on these platforms, we have to be very highly conscious of the fact that there is a line that can be crossed. And there’s an amount of trust that we’ve been given as developers on this platform that we want to treat very respectfully. So I can’t speak for every developer on the platform, but I can, I know for, from the point of view of food network, we want to be very respectful of people’s space.

Tim McElreath (40:22):

We don’t want to feel like we’re invading their space. We want to feel like we’re, it’s something that’s there for them when they’re for the customer when they need us, but not necessarily, you know, invading their privacy or, or, you know you know, making their, making their lives noisier. I think one of the nice things about voice platforms as opposed to mobile is the interactions on voice platforms tend to be shorter, right? Because on mobile, it’s easy to get in, go down the rabbit hole, if you’re looking up something, and then all of a sudden that leads you to somewhere else that lead you somewhere else. And you know, voice interactions tend to be a lot shorter. You know, you have a piece of information you need to, it would give you an answer and then you’re done and you can walk away. So, you know, oddly enough, you can build experiences that, that, that generate customer loyalty, but actually shorten their interaction with you because you’re giving, you’re giving them the value they were looking for and then leaving them alone to get on with their lives, which is which it’s kind of a aspect of the voice platforms. I like a lot.

Terry Tateossian (41:24):

Well, on that, on that note, how can people find you? And what can we take a look at the product and download it. You can,

Tim McElreath (41:31):

You can find us everywhere now. So are a food network. Kitchen is now on iOS and Android and fire TV, and Amazon echo show. We have both free tier and subscription tier. So if you’re a previous food network customer and you store our mobile app, all of that for all of that content that you were getting for free before is still there and it’s still free. The subscription is really for the additional content that we’re bringing, which is the live and on-demand cooking classes, and also the complete episode catalog. So, you know, you can go to the app store right now and download it and then link your accounts on your Alexa device and start taking cooking classes on your kitchen counter.

Terry Tateossian (42:11):

Awesome. Thank you Tim so much. I really appreciate your time and I can’t wait cause I love cooking. Okay,

Tim McElreath (42:18):

Well, let’s bend and definitely if you’re, if you’re using the app and you go to the ratings and reviews, and if you leave a comment, I can assure you, we are monitoring those comments every day and we will respond to you and we do take your suggestions seriously.

Terry Tateossian (42:32):

I love it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Terry Tateossian (42:35):

Thanks for listening to the amplified podcast. Follow us on our social channels and subscribe on Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify pod bean, or wherever you get your podcasts on the next episode, stay tuned for more trailblazing insights, energy and culture to help fuel your pursuit in the modern digital era.