How to publish news to Alexa

Analysis

Smart Speakers and Virtual Assistants are changing the way we interact with technology.

The adoption of voice-enabled devices have topped media trends in 2018 and will continue to develop around us in 2019 and beyond. The fastest tech adoption curve since the mobile phone — Smart Speakers are proving to be an exciting new medium for news publishers as they explore the next frontier of audio content.

The number of smart-speaker users in the U.S. is expected to will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 47.9 percent between 2016 and 2020.eMarketer.

SpeechKit allows publishers to automate content to these platforms optimising engagement potential and expanding the reach of their stories. There are a number of platforms and formats available, below we outlined Amazon’s voice offerings.

Amazon Alexa

‘Alexa’ is the Amazon Virtual Assistant and the platform that supports…um…her. Not tied to any one device, Alexa is available natively on a number of Amazon hardware products, such as the Amazon Echo Smart Speaker range or the Fire TV, and on iOS and Android through the Alexa App. Through these devices, Alexa users can access ‘Skills’ which act much like apps on an app store.

Launched in 2014, Amazon has been quietly developing Alexa into a powerful platform for developers to reach audiences in new and exciting ways. In 2018, there were 30,000+ Skills on the Alexa platform, engagement growing at 50% year-on-year.

Alexa Flash Briefings

Flash Briefings are the most common way in which news publishers are engaging with Alexa users. This skill delivers to the user a summary of news from their chosen news brands, providing these brands have created their own flash briefing. Through the Alexa app, customers choose to subscribe to titles that are then delivered, in succession, when prompted by the user saying something like “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”.

“Alexa, play me my Flash Briefing.”

This format is fairly open with Amazon only asking that briefings be kept to less than 10 minutes in length. Publishing to a Flash Briefing is done through an HTTPs of RSS feed and many publishers have created custom formats for this particular functionality. Short and concise news bulletins have proved successful on the platform, whilst some publishers have repurposed podcast content such as the FT News Briefing.

If you’re a publisher, blogger or writer with an interest in creating your own Flash Briefing, sign up to SpeechKit. On the platform, you can curate feeds to Alexa, automating existing content publishing, or choose to upload your own podcasts for distribution as Flash Briefings.

Alexa Skills

Whilst most news publishers have kept publishing on Alexa to Flash Briefings a number have opted to build their own Skill, much like an app. The Flash Briefing is a Skill with the functionality of distributing concise news bulletins from the user’s choice of publisher. However, if the user wanted to dive deeper into that publisher's content and interact more dynamically, this is where their own Skill would come in useful.

“Alexa, open the Guardian”.

Publisher’s and developers can create Skills to interact and deliver content however they choose. A number of news publishers have Skills that allow their readers to navigate through their content using their voice. The Guardian, for example, allows Alexa users to access the headlines, latest reviews or even news by specific topic using their voice.

“Alexa, tell me the latest news World News.”

It’s not just news publisher that are using Skills to engage their customers through Alexa. There are now 30,000+ Skills on Amazon with some of the most popular created by brands such as Dominos, Ocado and Fitbit.

73% of Smart Speaker owners indicate they want more news content to listen to.Reuters

At SpeechKit we are developing Skills to help newsreaders interact with their favourite news outlets. Automating audio versions of your content is the first step. Get in touch to arrange a pilot today.

Conclusion

In Q1 of last year, for the first time, more than half of radio listening was done through digital platforms. New devices, such as smart speakers, are making it easier for people to listen to digital audio, challenging linear listening conventions and offering on-demand alternatives.

Whilst radio’s audience faces a ‘demographic dilemma’ (less than a third of listeners are under 35 — OfCom ) news publishers have a distinct opportunity cater for millennial audiophiles. The biggest barrier to success is not the technology itself but internal factors (36%) such as resistance to change and inability to innovate, says the Reuters.

At SpeechKit we are helping 100s of news publishers to automate audio versions of their content efforts. Sign up for a free trial and instantly start creating audio for the next generation of news consumer.