Fans of New Orleans public jazz outlet WWOZ-FM (90.7) can now ask their Amazon Echo to play their favorite station. In partnership with streaming audio technology firm StreamGuys, WWOZ offers a custom skill that allows users to ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to play the station’s live stream, and access on-demand and archived content.
“Alexa lets consumers interact with their devices in a very intuitive way,” said WWOZ New Media director David Stafford. “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.”
StreamGuys is creating custom skills for WWOZ and other broadcast radio partners that are eager to connect with Alexa users and extend their brands and programming to a new platform. Several other major digital audio tech companies, including Jacobs Media, XAPPmedia, Futuri Media and ClipInteractive, are also building custom integrations for stations for Alexa, as well as Google Home, and developing integration for future voice-controlled devices from Microsoft, Apple and others.
These voice-controlled speakers represent a new way for users to stream broadcast radio in their homes, offices and cars. However, it can be difficult to access radio stations on the devices because users need to ask for their desired content in specific terms. While some stations use call letters in their branding, others use channel position or a specific phrase, making it difficult for potential users to know how to ask for their station. If they ask incorrectly, Alexa could send them to a radio station in another market with a different format. Also, depending how a user asks for a station, Alexa could lead them to TuneIn or iHeartRadio, rather than directly to a radio station’s skill, limiting the possible content they can access.
In the case of 90.7, however, simply by saying, “Alexa, open WWOZ,” users can access the station’s voice-prompted menu and navigate the content.
“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 StreamGuys COO Jonathan Speaker. “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.”
To solve these concerns for WWOZ, StreamGuys worked closely with the station to organize its content and archives and design the voice-navigation map. Within the skill, users can to listen live or play traditional jazz, as well as ask Alexa what is playing or to identify a song.
Along with the WWOZ skill, StreamGuys has developed Alexa integrations for several other broadcasters, including NPR stations Rhode Island Public Radio and Georgia Public Radio, as well as several RFC Media-owned Christian stations.
WWOZ’s Stafford says StreamGuys’ technological expertise has been critical to navigating the fast-moving voice-tech space. “For stations like WWOZ without a large institutional parent to provide central development capabilities, having StreamGuys create our Alexa integration was significant,” he said. “Having StreamGuys offer all of these things in one place is not only convenient, but makes them feasible for us.”