Alexa Follows Developer Tool Release with News Notifications and Stock Info for Consumers
Amazon is adding new informational features to the Alexa voice assistant, providing first-party support to news notifications and stock market data, among other minor updates. The consumer-facing features are small relative to the bonanza of new developer tools unveiled at Alexa Live this month that could reshape the industry. These updates are also closely tied to smart speakers and displays, setting them apart from some of the significant changes to the Alexa mobile app. Still, these updates constitute a new arena for Amazon that may draw away users of third-party voice apps that perform similar tasks.
New notifications are a new option for Echo device owners in the U.S. that will prompt the voice assistant to read short summaries of any breaking news pushed out by a publisher connected to the feature. The user can then ask for more information and get a longer version of the story upon request. Amazon is starting with just NPR and Fox News as choices for the notifications but plans to add more publishers soon. Notifications are not themselves a big deal necessarily, acting much like an audio version of a text-based alert you might get on your smartphone. Still, they hint at bigger ambitions by Amazon.
If you see a news story alert pop up on your phone that you want to know more about, you would logically open the article directly from the alert rather than hunt down your preferred outlet, at least in the first moments. That makes being the source of the Apple or Google News alert a very lucrative position for a publication. Presumably, the same will apply to audio news alerts. Whichever outlets people set their Echo news notifications preferences to play are going to have more listeners than those not on the platform. Publishers now have an incentive to set up an Alexa-compatible newsfeed, even if they were reluctant to set up a voice app previously.
The same kind of ambition is evident in the addition of stock market information to Alexa. Like the news notifications, this feature is starting small, answering basic questions about top stocks at the moment or for that day. It’s easy to imagine Amazon extending that list to specific stocks, industries, and other facets of the market, perhaps even personalized portfolio inquiries. Making that information available through Alexa directly is more convenient for users, but leaves third-party developers of stock information voice apps without much to offer.
The financial institutions with voice apps have other features that make them useful, but plenty of the 232 voice apps that come up when searching “stocks” on the Alexa Skill Store won’t have much to offer if the voice assistant can answer stock market questions without them. That’s largely what happened with Alexa skills marketing and analytics company Voxalyze, which began shutting down its User Acquisition Attribution service after Amazon debuted the new Quick Links feature that serves the same Skill discovery purpose. Undercutting voice app developers and making an Alexa skill necessary for publishers are somewhat inevitable consequences for Alexa’s broadening scope. Amazon’s innate access to data and control of the voice assistant as a platform makes it difficult, if not impossible, to compete directly or operate outside its native features.