Amazon Echo Creating New Branch of Journalism

The Amazon Echo was one of 2016’s hottest items. The device sold out over Christmas.

One of the many features or “skills” of Echo is the Flash Briefing, a collection of mini podcasts from news outlets that can be customized by the user. Sources for the Flash Briefing include BBC News, National Public Radio, The Economist, The Associated Press, AccuWeather, Slate, and more.

Users can easily customize their briefing by editing sources in the Alexa app.

The Flash Briefing from Slate, who announced in May that they were coming to Echo, is called “90 Seconds with Slate”. The outlet describes the program as “a bite-size nugget of culture, politics, tech, or sports news.”

Each media outlet is taking a different approach to creating their Flash Briefing. While “90 Seconds with Slate” is published every other day, NBC stations update their Flash Briefings 3 to 4 times a day.

The Flash Briefing for Quartz is a recording of a daily briefing email they already produce, rather than a standalone publication.

The Echo is still in the early stages of delivering news, but people are already imagining what the Echo’s future could look like.

“After almost a year of owning an Echo I’m amazed by how it has shifted how I access news and information, creating a layer of on-demand audio that I find myself relying on more and more,” said Josh Stearns, associate director of Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, in a Medium post.

Although he already spends most of his days consuming media online, Stearns finds Flash Briefings helpful for getting content when he’s doing other activities like chores around the house.

He envisions a future where Echo will be able to provide up-to-the-minute local news updates, such as whether or not there is a current traffic ban in your area.

“Right now, the updates are fairly generic, but I could imagine further integration with NPR One, which could deliver updates from local stations,” said Stearns. “Perhaps I could choose updates from my local station and the local station where I grew up and where most my family still lives, or the local station where I’m going on vacation next week.”

Because Echo news consumption is so young, it really could move in any direction. Echo is in a position to fill a growing gap due to the decline in print journalism. Perhaps the ease of saying “Alexa, what’s in the news?” will lead to an overall increase in media consumption.

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