In the latest headlines from KIRO7:
[stirring theme music begins] Hello from KIRO7 in Seattle. I’m Michelle Millman…
And I’m John Knicely. Here are the top stories we’re following on this Friday.
A car erupted in flames around 5:30 this morning on northbound I-5. This was just south of downtown and caused a major traffic backup, but you can get around it by…
This might sound like a local daybreak newscast blaring from the TV in the kitchen or the bedroom, as you rush around trying to get ready for work – but it isn’t.
It’s actually a Alexa Flash Briefing skill. Flash Briefing streams today’s top news stories to your Alexa-enabled device on demand. To hear the most current news stories from whatever sources you choose, just say “Alexa, play my flash briefing” or “Alexa, what’s the news?”
The particular Flash Briefing skill in question, though, is rather unique. With all its realism and personality, you might be fooled into thinking it’s an actual news desk, complete with bantering anchors, perky weather forecast, and the day’s top local headlines.
That’s because it is—and that’s what sets KIRO7 apart from the rest.
How Flash Briefing works
Using the Alexa app, you can select different skills for your Flash Briefing from a number of different news sources. These include big-named outlets like NPR, CNN, NBC, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and more. These all give you snapshots of global news. Now more and more local stations are creating their own Flash Briefing skills for Alexa.
The Flash Briefing Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, which enables developers to add feeds to Alexa’s Flash Briefing, delivers pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech (TTS) updates to customers. When using the Flash Briefing Skill API, you no longer need to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests. You configure your compatible RSS feed and build skills that connect directly to Flash Briefing so that customers can simply ask “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing” to hear your content.
Setting a higher bar for listener engagement
If you’ve activated Flash Briefing before, you know that several content providers leverage Alexa to read text in her normal voice. That’s because most skills in Flash Briefing repurpose content that is already available in an RSS-style feed. They plug the same text into the feed for Alexa to ingest.
Jake Milstein, news director for KIRO7, said KIRO7 was one of the first local news channels to create a Flash Briefing. While Alexa has a wonderful reading voice, the KIRO7 team wanted to do something a bit more personal for its listeners. Working with the Alexa team, they discovered they could upload MP3 files as an alternative to text. Instead of reading from canned text files, Alexa would play the audio files.
Milstein said using real people’s voices was an obvious choice, because “We have such great personalities here at KIRO7.” The station tested various formats, but eventually settled on using two of its morning news anchors. Christine Borrmann, KIRO7 Producer, says, “We tinkered with the format until Michelle and John just started talking about the news in a very conversational way. Then we added a little music in the background. It felt right.”
KIRO7 started out with a single daily feed but now has three. The morning anchors, Michelle Millman and John Knicely, record the first ‘cast around 4 a.m. and the second shortly after their live broadcast at 8 a.m. Other news anchors record the third feed in late afternoon, so it captures the evening news topics. Each ‘cast’ is roughly two minutes long and ends by encouraging listeners to consume more KIRO7 content through the app on Amazon FireTV.
Alexa, the news never sounded so good
The whole KIRO7 team is proud to be the first local news station to produce a studio-quality audio experience in a Flash Briefing and the KIRO7 skill launched alongside several established networks with national scale.
Early feedback on Facebook showed KIRO7 listeners loved the skill and wanted even more. Now that Flash Briefings are skills, though, the KIRO7 team can start collecting its own reviews and star-ratings.
Milstein says it is important that KIRO7 stay at the forefront of delivering Seattle-area news the way people want to get their news. “Having our content broadcast on Alexa-enabled devices and available on Amazon Fire TV is something we're really proud of. For sure, as Amazon develops more exciting ways to deliver the news, we'll be there.”
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