Alexa, Should I Create a News Skill for My Website?

The growth rate of smart speakers is faster than any device since the smartphone.

Smart speaker adoption is growing by 48% annually and this is set to continue until at least 2020.

Smart speaker growth rate

The Amazon Echo is one of the most popular smart speakers, and Alexa news commands are growing in popularity as a way for us to stay updated.

We’re going to show you why building an Alexa News Skill could benefit your news publication.

Let’s get into it.

  1. What Are Alexa Skills?
  2. “Alexa, what’s in the news today?”
    1. Real-world examples
  3. 6 Reasons Why You Should Create an Alexa Skill
  4. How To Create Your Own Alexa News Skill

What Are Alexa Skills?

alexa skills store - Alexa, Should I Create a News Skill for My Website?

Alexa Skills offer ways for businesses to teach Alexa-enabled devices new commands, and publish them to the Amazon App Store.

One of the most popular skills you can build is the Alexa skill news function, also known as the “Flash Briefing Skill”.

A Flash Briefing skill allows the user to hear a five-minute briefing of the latest headlines from their favorite news sources, straight from their Alexa enabled device.

“Alexa, what’s in the news today?”

A survey conducted by Adobe in September of 2018 found that 46% of respondents reported “checking the news” as being one of their favorite voice commands to use.

Real-world examples of companies with Alexa Skills

Alexa news skills

In the News section of the Alexa Skills store you’ll find skills for a plethora of news sources. Let’s take a look at a few examples of companies already using them, and with the commands you can use to access them.

The Alexa skill news function uses a specific skill type called the “Flash Briefing Skill API.”

Listeners can use the following voice command to interact with news skills through Alexa:

“Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”

Many news outlets are creating their own commands and establishing themselves on Alexa enabled devices.

NPR

npr alexa skill - Alexa, Should I Create a News Skill for My Website?

NPR’s Alexa Skill is NPR News Now. When a user voices their command, they’re given a briefing featuring five minutes of news from NPR.

Users can say “Alexa, what’s in the news” as a voice command as well as “what’s my Flash Briefing?”

The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal Alexa Skill

With The Wall Street Journal skill, users can listen to the latest news and market updates. They can even use it to tune into their favorite podcasts from WSJ.

Commands include the following. “Ask The Wall Street Journal for…”

  • “…a news summary.”
  • “…the latest podcasts.”
  • “…a market update.”

Users can even state their favorite WSJ podcast by name.

If you’re producing different kinds of content, you can benefit from this functionality in the same way the WSJ does.

CNN

CNN Alexa Skill

The CNN Alexa news skill is one of the best examples of how to bring an Alexa skill news function to your news organization.

A briefing of CNN’s latest headlines is available via this skill, but its commands go much further than that.

You can ask for more headlines if your briefing wasn’t long enough.

You can receive the latest news on a specific topic or even a play a quiz.

You can even play video content from CNN and control playback in multiple ways.

6 Reasons Why You Should Create an Alexa Skill

Voice search is growing fast, and you might be thinking about establishing a presence there to compliment your existing website and mobile app.

You’re also probably wondering what the real costs and benefits of creating an Alexa news skill are.

You can use the Flash Briefing Skill API mentioned earlier to create your own Alexa skill with relative ease.

If you want something similar to what WSJ and CNN offer, you’ll need to enlist the help of a developer or a service like MobiLoud.

Let’s go over the reasons as to why your news site needs an Alexa news skill.

Reason #1: Amazon’s Market Share

Global Smart Speaker Sales Statistics

Source: Voicebot

Amazon dominated smart speaker sales in 2017 and 2018.

2018 Strategy Analytics Consumer Survey reported that 61% of smart speaker users in the United States use an Amazon device.

News sites who publish to English-speaking audiences have the most to gain from creating an Alexa skill news show for their brand.

According to Canalys, the United States currently accounts for over 40% of global smart speaker sales. However, like with smartphones, the rest of the world will catch up quickly.

As for the future? A survey called the State of Voice Assistants published by Adobe in September of 2018 stated that 32% of US consumers currently own a smart speaker. They projected that 48% of consumers will be using smart speakers by 2019.

Reason #2: Be An Early Adopter

Alexa Skills market opportunity for news

Adobe’s survey proved that consumers are regularly using smart speakers to listen to music and check the weather and news updates already.

But, there’s still a lot of untapped potential for growth in the market.

Let’s review a real-world example. Take a look at the screenshot from the Alexa Skills storefront shown above. Major news organizations only have a few hundred reviews each. One of the most widely reviewed skills, Fox News, has over 1,100 reviews.

In comparison, the Fox News app has over 252,000 reviews on Google Play and over 225,000 reviews on the App Store.

If smart speaker adoption continues at it’s current growth rate, creating an Alexa Skill for your news site now is going to put you in an ideal spot to grow and be found by your audience as they began to use their smart speakers more.

Reason #3: Wider Content Distribution

Smart Speaker audience reach statistics

Source: Voicebot

There’s a reason why you publish posts on Medium, create YouTube videos and upload podcasts to iTunes.

You want to reach new audiences and create sources of traffic outside of your blog and Google.

The same can be true with Alexa Skills, who link to one of the most powerful search engines on the web.

The potential audience reach for smart speakers in the US reached 57.8 million by September of 2018. That number will likely surpass 60 million by the end of 2018. That’s a lot of new listeners you can reach on a daily basis in a marketplace that’s still relatively untapped.

They are also great for audience retention.

Adobe’s survey found that 71% of voice assistant users in the US use their devices at least once a day.

Second of all, “news” was the second most popular option in a survey that asked users what topics they asked their smart speakers for most. The question had 18 options in total. “News” made up 39.1% of responses.

Lastly, you have the potential to receive unintentional word-of-mouth recommendations. This is due to a stat in that Adobe survey that stated 72% of smart speaker owners feel comfortable using voice commands in front of others.

Reason #4: Easier Than Podcasting

Alexa skills vs podcasting

You may think that building an Alexa Skill is going to require lots of time and effort to get right, like podcasting does.

Unfortunately, podcasts are an enormous investment. Shows are typically one or two hours long. You’ll spend time and money in preparation for shows in the form of topic research and audio production.

An Alexa skill offers a much easier way for your brand to break into the audio content market.

Five-minute sound bites are much easier to produce than full-length shows.

They allow you to publish more consistently.

You can even create “text-to-speech” briefings that Alexa reads for you.

These must be less than 4,500 characters, and you can repurpose your existing articles that you’re already creating into Alexa briefings for your audience..

Reason #5: Another Revenue Stream

Alexa In-Skill purchasing

You’ve heard of in-app purchasing. Amazon has created something similar for Alexa Skills. It’s called in-skill purchasing.

In-skill purchasing allows you to earn revenue from an Alexa skill in multiple ways. You can start by charging a premium, one-time price for the skill in general. This method should include premium content your readers can’t get anywhere else.

Another way you can earn revenue is through ongoing subscriptions. You’ll generate recurring revenue from premium content available through your Alexa news skill. You can also offer more features if you have the technical know-how to create them.

How does it work?

You set up the skill with the premium content and features you want to offer your listeners. Amazon will handle the functionality required to enable “voice-first purchasing.”

Reason #6: Future Proof Your News Site

Not long ago, print was the main way we accessed the news.

Then, it was the TV and radio.

Now, it’s mobile apps.

Soon, voice search could be competing as the next major destination for your audience to access your content.

Voice assistants are currently available via smart speaker devices and smartphones. Soon, you’ll find them in cars and appliances. This means users will be able to access your Alexa news skill anywhere.

There are many things you can do with voice search. Accessing content from your favorite creators and news sources is certainly one of them. You still have time to prepare your business for features set to come from the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants.

How to Create Your Own Alexa News Skill

Hopefully, you also understand the influence an Alexa skill news show can have. Let’s go over a few quick stats to summarize.

Amazon dominated smart speaker sales for two straight years, controlling over two thirds of the smart speaker market. News sites who publish in the United States have the most to gain, according to reports on global smart speaker sales.

Smart speaker ownership is set to reach 48% following the holidays. This will bring your total audience reach to well over 60 million listeners.

Other than that, an Alexa news skill will allow you to capitalize on an underused platform. It’s also a better return on investment in terms of advertising and podcasting. Plus, you can even earn revenue from premium content.

On board? Great! What you’re probably wondering now is how you can get started with this venture.

Who Can Create an Alexa News Skill?

Anyone who owns or has the right to distribute text or audio content can create a flash briefing skill for Alexa.

Creating a flash briefing skill is fairly easy to do. You’ll need to register as an Amazon developer, and follow their guides to creating a Flash Briefing.

If you don’t have the time to create your own flash briefing skill, MobiLoud can help. First, we can help you create and manage a mobile app for your news site. This will help you engage your readers in the web’s current dominating format.

We can also help you set up an Alexa skill that allows your audience to find and listen to your very own Flash Briefing on their smart speakers.

Wrapping Up

Smart speaker adoption is set to continue growing at a fast pace, and creating an Alexa skill for your news site gives you a way to get ahead of your competition who aren’t yet available there.

While an Alexa skill won’t be replacing your website and mobile app anytime soon, it never hurts to be available on all channels that your users expect and hope you to be on.

If you want to create a flash briefing for your news site, get in touch!


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Written by
Lyn Wildwood
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Digital Media Growth and Innovation