As Tom Hjelm outlined in a recent note to stations, voice assistant platforms are “a huge part of our shared future, and when you ask Alexa, Siri or Google to play your local Member station, or NPR, or the headlines, or your favorite podcast or show, we want to ensure the experience is as direct, relevant and compelling as possible.”
As many of you have observed, station streaming via Alexa-powered devices like the Echo, Show and Dot has not been an ideal experience for either stations or their listeners. For example, asking for a specific station sometimes returns the wrong result; a station might not be identified by its preferred name; and does not enable listeners to update their preferences.
With those clear station and listener pain points in hand, we aimed to improve the station streaming via Alexa experience by creating an NPR Alexa Skill with the following success metrics in mind:
- More awareness of station streaming
- Better accuracy of station names
- More transparency around what stream is playing
- Better wayfinding within the streaming experience
Using our resources and partnership with Amazon, we have created this Top level skill, which will replace the existing way Alexa-powered devices are reaching your audience, with you and your audience in mind.
How does it work?
The first iteration of the new station streaming skill at launch will support the voice command “play NPR”. The first time a listener asks Alexa to play NPR, they will be asked to choose their station by brand name or call letters. If they don’t know the name, they can browse by zip code or city and state. When the listener returns, the skill will confirm their preferred station and set it as their default. Subsequent visits will take the listener directly to the stream.
Other commands that will be supported at launch include:
- Ask NPR to play [station name or call letters]
- Ask NPR to browse by location
- Ask NPR what's playing
- Ask NPR to save this as my station
- Ask NPR for help
What’s next for smart speakers?
In the coming months, we expect to continue to be able to share advancements in this important space and look forward to working together on reaching more listeners together.
Not hearing your station or still have questions?
To ensure your station streams are available and accurate in the NPR Alexa Skill starting today, we urge you to review your streaming settings in StationConnect. You need to review two areas:
1. Are your streams HTTPS? - Review your stream URLs and make sure you have an HTTPS stream entered in StationConnect. Your streams must be secure to be eligible for inclusion in the NPR Alexa Skill.
2. Do you have a Primary Stream? - Your station must have a "Primary Stream" selected in StationConnect. This will be the default stream that is accessible in the NPR Alexa Skill at launch.
To find how-to articles on updating StationConnect visit our Support Center.
For promotional material and additional resources for your station, visit NPRStations.org.