A content delivery network and streaming media provider has added itself to the list of entities that wish to help broadcast stations bring radio back into the homes of today’s connected audiences.
The first station to work with the company: A fabled New Orleans noncomm that’s the official station of the annual Jazz Fest.
StreamGuys is now offering custom Alexa “skills” creation for broadcasters using any streaming host or CDN. Much like adding functionality to smartphones by installing apps, the custom Alexa skills add capabilities to Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Tap smart home speakers, enabling listeners to access stations’ live and on-demand content through intuitive voice commands.
Alexa skills allow broadcasters to choose the words that users speak to launch the station’s programming, as well as defining the interactive experience surrounding their content. In addition to live streams, the skills can provide intuitive, verbal access to podcasts and on-demand archives, with easy voice navigation between episodes. Like web domain names, Alexa invocation names – the words users speak to open a custom skill – must be unique, making it important for broadcasters to act swiftly to secure their preferred Alexa identity.
“As an audio-centric solution with no distracting screen, Echo devices are perfect for audio streaming, and are helping bring radio back into people’s households,” said Jonathan Speaker, StreamGuys’ COO. “However, it can be hard for users to find a station if it’s listed only by call letters, and even more confusing if multiple stations use the same marketing brand. By affordably offering our customers custom Alexa skills creation, we’re enabling them to quickly establish their presence on this important platform.”
One of the first stations to take advantage of StreamGuys’ Alexa skills development was WWOZ-FM in New Orleans. An early adopter of streaming technology, the local music-focused station is always on the lookout for ways to grow beyond its terrestrial broadcast footprint, with roughly half of its listeners now coming from outside Louisiana.
WWOZ’s skill passed Alexa certification and went live in May, enabling Echo users to listen live, browse WWOZ’s archives or access specific on-demand programming by genre or title through easy verbal instructions.
“Alexa lets consumers interact with their devices in a very intuitive way,” said David Stafford, New Media Director at WWOZ. “It’s attractive to us because of how embedded smart voice technology has become in people’s lifestyles. To be one quick voice command away from people being able to hear us is very cool. By putting us in front of more listeners and embedding us further into their lives, the Alexa integration increases our audience engagement, which we expect will drive more of the donations that fund us.”
Listeners can access WWOZ’s voice-prompted menu by saying “Alexa, open WWOZ”, or go directly to desired content with commands such as “Alexa, tell WWOZ to listen live” or “Alexa, tell WWOZ to play traditional jazz”.
StreamGuys worked closely with WWOZ to organize the station’s show archive into an easily voice-navigable structure, and to implement the new integration.
“Our new Alexa Skill enhances our on-demand offering by giving our listeners a powerful and effortless new way to access it,” Stafford said.
In addition to WWOZ, StreamGuys has also created Alexa skills for forward-thinking broadcasters NPR member stations affiliated with Rhode Island Public Radio and Georgia Public Radio and Positive Alternative Radio (“Walk FM”, “Joy FM”, “Spirit FM” and “Encouraging Radio”).