The New York Times has released a bunch of interesting ‘skills’ for Alexa-enabled devices last week. What you can expect:

  • A 3-minute daily briefing, narrated by Michael Barbaro (the host of the popular podcast ‘The Daily’)
  • A weekly interactive quiz about the news
  • Weekly recommandations from the Pop Music & Book Review sections
  • Short audio stories from the Times’s ’52 Places Traveler’, who is traveling the globe looking for the most exciting locations to visit this year

Honestly, I’ve never been really convinced by most news-related content for smart speakers/assistants. Publisher skills often feel robotic (text-to-speech) or simply reproduce radio or podcast segments.

With these new skills, The Times is being creative and tries to provide something different and meaningful to users. The flash briefing is basically a shorter version of ‘The Daily’ built for catchup usage. Other publishers already do these kind of briefings, but the NYT’s 3-minute segment with podcast star Michael Barbaro is likely to become a new reference.

The quiz and culture recommandations are also interesting tidbits that should work well in audio format. They are also thought as a complement to the Sunday print edition, which will display prompts for the Alexa experience. Imagine reading your print edition at home, and triggering your Alexa speaker to hear more from the reporter. That should be quite nice.