23 January 2019

How to create a Flash Briefing Skill and Podcast on Amazon Alexa | Aaron Henriques

Do you have a podcast and want it to feature on Amazon Alexa's podcast skill? Or want to be an early adopter of voice first flash briefings?

Here's all you need to know to get your podcast skill or voice first flash briefing skill on Amazon Alexa.

What is voice first?

Chances are you've never heard of voice first. Voice first is the next generation way of communicating. Voice first aims to change the way you live and interact with the world using just you voice. 

Amazon and Google are already going head to head over this. Amazon on the face of it seem to be the leader with the Alexa devices becoming more popular and a feature in many homes.

What is an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill?

A flash briefing is a short briefing that can be played on request from an Amazon Alexa device. It can be anything from a few seconds up to a maximum 10 minutes in length. 

Your flash briefing will remain for up to 5 days and it is designed so you can provide useful and interesting information to people using Amazon Alexa on demand. Some popular flash briefings so far are news briefings and mindset.

Someone waking up in the morning can simply say a single command like "Good Morning Alexa" then your Alexa can turn on your lights, heating, boil the kettle and tell you things like the weather for the day, traffic on your route home and play your daily flash briefings from your favourite sources.

Amazon also plan to play popular, relevant flash briefings to people browsing relevant products. For example if you are buying a book about Mindset, it could play your popular mindset flash briefing automatically to everyone who looks at or buys the book.

How do I get my podcast to show on Amazon Alexa?

Amazon have made it really easy for people to add a podcast skill. First you need to create an Amazon developers account. There is a video on YouTube showing you quickly how to do it.

Before creating a skill manually, if you have your podcast hosted with a provider like Libsyn, you'll want to check with them first to see if they already have a pre-built template.

You can check which podcast platforms already have a built in template here. Currently Libsyn, StreamGuys, VoiceApps and XAPP Media have podcast skill templates built for Amazon Alexa with more to follow soon.

If your platform does not or you host your own podcast, you can head over to Effect.co which was created by Nick Brown from Denver, Colorado. With Effect.co all you need to do is add your podcast RSS feed and they'll take care of the rest.

Nick was super helpful when I contacted him trying to get my flash briefing setup on his platform. The podcast skill is available on his premium accounts from $25/month.

My podcast is hosted on Libsyn. If you're using Libsyn too and want your podcast to automatically appear in the Amazon Alexa podcast skills, at the moment you need to email Rob from Libsyn who will add your podcast for you. 

Just so you know, Libsyn will only put your podcast on Amazon Alexa once you have 10 episodes published. You can find out how to contact Rob here.

Publish a flash briefing skill on Amazon Alexa using Libsyn

Once you've registered and been approved by Amazon, visit the Amazon Alexa Skills Dashboard to create your first skill. Simply click on the "Create Skill" button and follow the simple steps.

create amazon alexa voice first podcast skill and flash briefing skill

As I've used both Libsyn and Effect.co for my podcast skills here's how to use both. 

There are a few rules you have to stick to or Amazon will reject your flash briefing.

Firstly, all flash briefings need to be 10 minutes or less. Anything longer than this and nobody will ever hear it!

Secondly, Amazon only want 'clean' flash briefings. If your description or podcast contains anything would could be seen as profanity or vulgar in any way, they'll politely reject it.

For instance my skill was rejected as my cover photo had the name of my podcast  "Digital Entrepreneur highs, lows & f**k ups podcast" and my description included "hear the latest in my Digital Entrepreneur highs, lows & f**k ups podcast". They replied saying I need to remote "f**k" from my cover photo and description. I did not use the word fuck but Amazon don't like it and its their platform!

Somehow I don't think Amazon will keep to this censorship nonsense for very long. Some of the most popular podcasts out there like Serial or The GaryVee Audio Experience use profanities...regularly! Amazon are going to want their fans using Alexa flash briefings and podcast skills too no doubt before they isolate a large number of successful podcasters and leave iTunes as the front runner for podcasts.

See how to create a flash briefing using Libsyn or Effect.co.

How to create a flash briefing skill using Libsyn

Libsyn has not yet redesigned their platform to be ready for creating flash briefing skills. So there are a number of simple steps you have to take to make this work. 

Firstly, you cannot use your existing podcast show. I tried to work out how to do this with Rob and their tech support and it turns out its just very complicated and would take a lot of admin time to make it work that way.

You'll need to add a new show on your account. To do this, login to your Libsyn account and the top right dropdown click Register New Show.

The bad news is when you register a new show you have to pay like its a seperate account. 

However, as Flash Briefing file sizes can be very small at just 4-10mb, you won't need to pay for an expensive plan even if you intend on add a daily flash briefing skill on Amazon Alexa.

create a new podcast flash briefing show on libsyn

Once you've setup your new Libsyn show with basic details, go and find your RSS link by clicking on the Destinations menu option.

Under Quick Links look at your Libsyn Classic Feed url. You'll need to edit this URL slightly. The URL in the image below is for my podcast on iTunes and Spotify etc however it works the same. 

Libsyn RSS feed for voice first amazon alexa flash briefing

What you need to do is add /last1 to the end of your RSS feed URL.

So for example, my RSS feed would look like https://aaronhenray.libsyn.com/rss/last1 if I wanted to add it as a flash briefing on Amazon Alexa. 

This tells Amazon Alexa to only play the last flash briefing you uploaded. Its important as a flash briefing is not like a podcast. Its designed to be listened to that day or week then disappear never to be heard again.

Once you have this url, simply head over to your Amazon Developers account, click Edit on the flash briefing you started to create and add the feed URL.  

Add a flash briefing url to amazon alexa voice first skills

Once you add this and submit your skill for review on the next page. Amazon will review it and hopefully you'll get a welcome email confirming your skill has been published.

What I will credit Amazon for is they have really taken the time to ensure any rejections are clearly laid out why they rejected it. This gives you the best chance of correcting your errors to ensure they fall in line with Amazon policy.

How to create a flash briefing skill using Effect.co

It's coming soon...

Amazon Flash Briefings and Flash skills play on Amazon Alexa Echo Dot 3rd Generation

Which is better?

Well at the time of writing there was a clear winner. Libsyn has some of the top podcasts in the world hosted on their platform. They know how to do this. Although they are yet to setup a method as simple as Effct.co, if you wish to have a podcast and Amazon skill, they are both cheaper and easier to schedule and publish all from one account.

Effct.co is great and the owner Nick is honestly the most helpful human being I've come across in recent years online. Happy to help at every corner to make it work. He has a free flash briefing skill account however the only downside is his paid account which allows for scheduling etc is more money and has fewer features than Libsyn who already dominate that space.

I like to see small businesses thrive against giants and I hope Nick can find a way to make his platform more appealing and cost effective. That said, his support is superior but I am sure as his platform Effect.co becomes more popular, he'll have to get some staff to take on support.

Are there any restrictions Amazon put on you?

Well quite simply yes. They want the Amazon Flash Briefing skills to be 'clean'. Using swear words, things that look like swear words (f**k) or things that may in any way be offensive seems to be against the rules of Amazon right now. That's not just the title, or the flash briefing feed icon, but its also your recording. Don't forget Alexa is built to understand you and Amazon will of course play relevant flash briefings to people based on their purchasing history. 

I am pretty confident that the nothing offensive rule change over time as they'll continue to lose out on the audience of some of the best (not so clean) podcasters out there.

Amazon also want your flash briefing skills to be less than 10 minutes. Right now their podcast skills need quite a bit of work.

Hopefully this has been useful and please feel free to comment below.

Do you have a flash briefing skill on Amazon Alexa?

Did you have any issues getting your skill on Amazon? Are there other ways you'd recommend which are easier than I found? If you do, please share it and tag me on your post. I'm @AaronHenray on everything!

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Amazon Alexa, Flash Briefing, Podcast, Voice First

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