In case you were not already aware, a Flash Briefing is one of the most widely used “skills” on the Amazon Echo, the smart speaker enabled with the Alexa voice assistant. Skills are similar to apps on mobile devices in that anyone can create and contribute a skill to the Alexa platform as long as they meet certain requirements. When you ask Alexa for your Flash Briefing, she delivers pre-recorded updates from popular media outlets that have made their content available on the platform such as NPR, BBC News, and The Economist. The goal of this report is to help you understand why you would want to contribute your news or other content to a Flash Briefing and how to go about creating one.
That is not a typo. The research firm Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, 75% of all U.S. households, which equates to about roughly 100 million, will have a “smart speaker” such as Alexa or Google Home.
If this doesn’t convince you, consider that over this past holiday season Amazon sold over 10 million Alexa-enabled devices, making it the top-selling product on Amazon.com overall. At this pace, the Gartner estimates may actually be an underestimate of adoption rate. You cannot deny the unprecedented opportunity it creates for reaching your audience via a new and innovative medium.
Even though many Alexa users admit to spending most of their day online consuming media they appreciate these quick, customized summaries which they can listen to while they are doing other maybe more productive things that may not allow them to be in front of a screen or a keyboard. Whether you are in the kitchen preparing a meal or getting ready for work in the morning the convenience and control over the content is very appealing and it is changing the way people get their news.
For those who prefer a screen, you can now receive Video Flash Briefings on new devices such as the Amazon Echo Show. As a result, media companies and news outlets are adjusting quickly to also provide video content to their Flash Briefings.
Although Voice Assistant Devices are widely known for their ability to enhance life at home it is clear that their reach is extending far outside the home into places like people’s cars and their workplaces.
At the AWS reinvent conference, Amazon announced Alexa for Business a new platform that will let companies build their own skills and integrations for both practical and use cases. Amazon thinks Alexa will replace the desktop phone in the office starting with the conference room where they are looking to improve the conference call experience. But just as developers can build skills for Amazon Echo users, businesses can now build out Alexa skills for use within their own company. Imagine having instant voice access to an employee directory, or CRM data on various clients and accounts, or company calendar information.
To configure a new Flash Briefing skill you’ll need to create the content feed, create an Account on the Amazon Developer Portal and then follow the steps for “skill certification”.
Amazon supports using existing RSS feeds for flash briefings. However, most RSS feeds are web-oriented and contain things like images, video, styled content, and/or long descriptions which don’t meet Amazon’s recommended best practices and therefore translate poorly to this audio-oriented platform.
You could create a secondary RSS feed or even your own custom JSON feed which follows the Alexa guidelines, but this usually requires up-front development and ongoing management overhead.
Unleashed Technologies drastically simplifies this process with our pre-built integrations. Our Drupal modules provide point-and-click creation of Flash Briefing feeds directly from your website’s back-end. We also offer an automated RSS feed converter for all other platforms which converts your existing feed to an Alexa-compliant format on-the-fly. Both solutions reduce the upfront investment and virtually eliminate the ongoing management overhead - you continue publishing content as usual and we’ll ensure it reaches your audience via Alexa.