Tips for Creating a Great Flash Briefing Skill

This document gives you tips to create flash briefing skills that delight your customers. A customer's flash briefing is populated by flash briefing skills. Flash briefing skills can contain multiple feeds, and a feed can contain up to five items that are read or played to the customer. A good skill consists of the right mixture of feeds and feed items.

General Tips

Update your flash briefing frequently.
Customers listen to their flash briefing throughout the day, and hearing the same news repeated can create a negative experience. Update your feeds as often as possible, at least daily, so that customers hear new content.
Make your content a key part of a customer's daily routine.
Provide content that customers look forward to consuming, particularly as a part of their morning or afternoon routines. This could include news, weather, sports, comedy, movie and/or television reviews and more.
Make your content short.
flash briefing is designed to provide short pieces of content to the customer as they go about their daily routines. We suggest that feeds should be no more than a few minutes long for an audio clip, about 1-2 minutes for text-to-speech (TTS).
Choose thoughtful introductions for your feeds.
Choose introductions (preambles) for your feeds that are concise and informative. Preambles must start with “In…” or "From" for English skills or "Im" or "Von", "In", "Vom" or "Aus" for German skills and be 70 characters or less. For example, "In Developer News…"
Separate your feed into items.
If you have several headlines or short summaries that you want to provide in your feed, break them into feed items. Each item is separated by an earcon (audible icon) sound, so customers can hear the separation between items.
Choose thoughtful error messages.
Choose error messages for your skills that are concise and informative. Error messages should be 100 characters or less. For example, "Developer News is temporarily offline."
List feeds in the skill description.
When you create the long description for your skill in the Developer Portal, make sure you list the feeds that are included in the skill, as well as specifying the default feed. This helps make sure that your feeds display to a customer when they search the Skill Store. List the included feeds at the end of the description. For example:
Remove stale feed items.
Flash briefing will automatically play the five most recent items contained in the RSS or JSON file for a feed. If you do not want these five items played every time a customer requests their flash briefing, then you must remove older items from the RSS or JSON file.
Avoid advertising, plugs or promotions.
A feed’s primary purpose should be to provide informative and entertaining content to customers. Advertising only detracts from the customer experience. For more information, see Alexa Skills Kit Policy Testing
Test your skill before you submit it for certification.
The Developer Portal allows you to listen to and test your skill before you submit it. By testing, you optimize the customer experience, and may catch issues that would result in your skill failing certification.

Performance Tips

Host your feeds on fast and reliable servers.
Make sure your feed URL is always available and that it loads quickly. Alexa caches your content, and handles scaling for large traffic. However, you should still host your feed on a reliable server that is fast and responsive. There are many cloud providers that are relatively cheap and easy to work with. For example, Amazon Web Services (http://aws.amazon.com) offers options for hosting content feeds.

Tips for Text-to-Speech (TTS) Content

Use short sentences.
Sentences designed to be read are often long and difficult to follow when spoken. Use short sentences to create a better listening experience and help your customers to more easily follow your content.
Use proper punctuation for pauses.
Commas (,) and semicolons (;) result in short pauses. Periods (.), question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) result in longer pauses. Avoid using other punctuation as it could cause TTS issues.
Don't use HTML or SSML tags, URLs or special symbols.
Using HTML or SSML tags, URLs and special symbols will create unpredictable TTS results. Provide plain text that can be easily read.
Keep your content in summary format.
TTS is typically better suited to shorter summary content. A one paragraph news summary is typically much better than a two-page article when read aloud. – Audio feeds are better suited to longer material.
Limit feed items to fewer than 4,500 characters.
Your content is truncated to the nearest sentence under 4,500 characters if it exceeds 4,500 characters in length.

Tips for Audio Clip Content

Use high-quality audio formats.
For a better listening experience, use an MP3 with a bit rate of at least 256kbps. Make sure audio is free of distracting background or other noises.
Provide a consistent volume for your audio content.
Listen to your audio content using Alexa during the testing phase and make sure the volume of your audio clips match the volume of Alexa's speech for your feed's preamble. Ensure the volume of your feeds is consistent between feed items. For more information, see Normalizing the Loudness of Audio Content.