How BBC Good Food is using voice search analytics to develop its Amazon Alexa skill

Unboxing my Amazon Echo. An Amazon Echo and its accessories.
My new Amazon Echo unpacked, by Brewbooks, Wikimedia Commons

Today, the newsletter featured a story about how BBC Good Food, one of the several magazines published under the BBC brand, gathered voice data to develop its Amazon Alexa skill.

I think that Marcela Kunova on makes a good point in writing about the process: Smart speakers are still an evolving space and that user behaviour and the technology itself is still a moving target.

I’d go one step further. I think that voice interfaces are still in their infancy. I swear a lot at Alexa and Siri, and the voice eco-system is still in its infancy. At the public broadcasting group that I work at, we have already had issues with getting our work to audiences on smart speakers. Reaching audiences on Alexa is mediated through NPR, our national network, and TuneIn, one of the several audio discovery services. TuneIn’s process for managing our stream has been opaque and very informal for such a critical distribution service.

At the moment BBC Good Food is using what data it can get. The report mentioned that of the 90 m searches done through its website, “only a few hundred users who access the content through Alexa skill.”

But they are using some of the same statistics that they use for web search to guide the development of the Alexa skill: “volume of use, volume of completion, drop-off rate etc,” according to Hannah Williams, head of digital content at BBC Good Food.

Apart from how they analytics that they are using, the other thing I found interesting in their process is how they are trying to get information about anonymous users of their digital services by pushing users to other digital content through their skill.

Williams said that people looking to develop an Alexa skill shouldn’t focus on creating a perfect product because one doesn’t exist yet. She said its more important to invest in analytics to improve the product as user tastes and engagement with smart speakers change.

Most read this week

In the past week, here are the stories that subscribers to my newsletter have been reading the most:

Have a great weekend, and if you have a good media business story, especially from outside the US and Europe, please send it along to @kevglobal on Twitter.

How to make money with smart speakers

Fun things to ask Alexa on New Year’s Eve, by, from Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

And the new subscribers keep coming! Welcome, and please let your friends know about the newsletter.

Today’s newsletter is full of actionable intelligence for the media leader. As for the top story, it might have to do with the fact that I’m currently working for a public broadcasting group, but a story with a comprehensive rundown of ways that you can make money from smart speakers caught my eye today.

The one point they make is that “skills” for Alexa or “actions” for Google’s Assistant are key to the process. These are the third party applications that allow you to really connect with your audiences. They open up a lot of new opportunities such as interactivity and the ability to sell exclusive content, two of the more than half dozen revenue ideas in the article by Publishing Executive.

One of the key decisions is whether to develop these actions or skills in-house or out-source them to a dedicated development shop. I think it really comes down to resources and how core smart speakers are to your overall business strategy. As the articles says, this is a fast moving space, and for smaller organisations that can’t afford a dedicated developer, it might make more sense to work with an external development firm. If you have the scale and smart speakers are core to your business, then it might make sense to develop in-house and build up that capability.

But there is a lot of other things in the newsletter today including:

Thanks again to the new subscribers, and please share the newsletter with your colleagues and people who you think might be interested. And please share with me stories that catch your eye, on Twitter, @kevglobal And if you want to subscribe, please go to my Nuzzel profile.

Android, e-ink and live news displays

Android Meets E Ink from MOTO Development Group on Vimeo.

Motorola Development Group is showing off a proof of concept with Google’s Android running an e-ink display. With Amazon’s Kindle showing some signs of success, it looks like e-readers might finally be reaching a tipping point in terms of adoption. What I find interesting in terms of not only the Kindle but also this proof of concept is the delivery of content wirelessly.We’re starting to see experimentation in terms of form factor for these devices. We’re not just talking about laptops, netbooks and mobile phones.

With the cost of printing the New York Times roughly twice as much as sending every subscriber a free Kindle, there might be a point where wireless delivery to an electronic reading device makes economic sense. This is very speculative and very much out in front of the market and most consumers, but as Nicholas Carlson points out:

What we’re trying to say is that as a technology for delivering the news, newsprint isn’t just expensive and inefficient; it’s laughably so.

Print is always cast in terms of habit. The argument is that people prefer the tactile experience of the printed page and the easily browsable format, but with the economics of print news delivery becoming financially untenable, it’s worth seeing what options are available and what options are developing.