One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.

After your kids are asleep, Alexa can help you doze off with the Ambient Noise skill and its companion skills. There are several different sounds to choose from, all of which come with their own skill. You can fall asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm, rain, ocean, wind chimes, babbling brook, rain on a tent, city sounds and much more. For all available sounds, just say, "Alexa, ask Ambient Noise for a list."
This shouldn't scare you away, however. Alexa-enabled devices are great to have in your home and, with a little tweaking, can prove to be very good companions. I’ve hand-picked some of the most useful and unique Alexa skills from the thousands that are out there. Many of these skills will not be enabled by default, so you may need to follow the proper activation steps before using each one for the first time. 
The next step in our Alexa flash briefing tutorial is to set up an Alexa skill for delivering the briefing. First, visit the Amazon Developer Console to create a new skill. Begin by giving it a name, then click “next.” You’ll be offered a selection of Alexa skill models to choose from. Select “flash briefing” from the list, then you’ll be met with a series of Alexa flash briefing options.

For tracking your food, you can use the Track by Nutritionix skill, which lets you record your food intake using your voice, or ask for caloric values of foods. (Alexa does the latter by default.) Say things like, "Alexa, tell Food Tracker to log a cup of almond milk" or "Alexa, ask Food Tracker how many calories are in two eggs and three slices of bacon."
Once you’ve filled out the page, it’s time to make a listing or profile page for your flash briefing. This process is the same as with any Alexa skill: give your briefing a short description, a long one and a profile image to use. After that, submit your skill and begin recording your content! When you upload new content to your audio host, it will automatically push to your flash briefing via RSS.
It’s safe to say that these kinds of audio updates are here to stay, whether they’re delivered through Alexa as a flash briefing or in the future through Google Home or Apple HomePod. For marketers, the key to maximizing the potential of this new medium is to publish briefings consistently, use relevant keywords, and promote your skill across all channels to build your audience.
Some Alexa Skills connect to smart devices, bringing voice control to a smart home from smart lights to locks, smart thermostats to televisions and more. Alexa becomes a home's second in command: users tell Alexa to tell other devices what to do. There are Alexa Skills for almost any kind of smart home device. These Alexa Smart Home articles can get users started immediately, quick start guides for using Alexa: 8 Alexa skills for your professionally installed and monitored security systems, 5 Alexa skills for security you install yourself, but have professionally monitored, and Alexa Skills that help lock down the security of your smart home.
The next step in our Alexa flash briefing tutorial is to set up an Alexa skill for delivering the briefing. First, visit the Amazon Developer Console to create a new skill. Begin by giving it a name, then click “next.” You’ll be offered a selection of Alexa skill models to choose from. Select “flash briefing” from the list, then you’ll be met with a series of Alexa flash briefing options.
When Alexa recognizes your voice, stories and news items you’ve already heard will be skipped. To set up voice recognition, say “Alexa, learn my voice.” This is feature is especially useful if you listen to flash briefings on weekends when many flash briefings don’t post new content. With Alexa voice recognition enabled, you won’t hear the flash briefing episodes you already listened to.

Now you’re ready to set up your flash briefing feed. First, type in a custom error message, which can be up to 100 characters. Alexa will say this text to the user if the skill fails to deliver the content. For instance, you might say something like, “[Skill name] is not available at the moment.” To hear a preview of Alexa saying your error message, click the Play button on the right.
Like all AI devices that use National Language Processing or NLP, Alexa does not understand all voices easily. But she learns to understand her people over time. She does, however, require people to speak in simple terms, with appropriate pauses, and use specific word orders. There are many times when she will say "I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to that question." More than likely, she doesn't recognize a word order or misunderstood the question.
×