Local news now available from ‘Alexa’

Daily Sun offers voice-activated content

— The Daily Sun has launched the first voice-activated news content from the region available from the Amazon Echo’s “Alexa.”

Currently in an abbreviated format, the newspaper is offering a couple stories each weekday on the voice-activated service.

“We’re on the cutting edge of the bringing on-demand news and sports to you,” said Publisher Roger Harnack, who has been developing the local service.

The system brings news, weather, music and other services to “Alexa” owners with wireless Internet.

Until now, only weather was available from the area.

“I received an Amazon Echo Dot last year and I use it every day,” Harnack said.

Combining his “Alexa” with observations of his 15-year-old daughter’s smartphone habits, Harnack said providing local news on the system makes sense.

Most people younger than about 25 years old rely heavily on voice-activated systems or smartphone and tablet applications, or “apps,” Harnack said.

Readers who own an Amazon Echo can begin getting Daily Sun News in their “flash briefing” by adding the newspaper to their list of news sources in the setup procedures.

After Daily Sun News is added, local voice-activated content can be accessed by simply stating “Alexa, play news” while the device — an Echo, an Echo Dot or an Echo Show — is turned on and connected to wireless Internet.

The voice-activated news feed is the first of its kind in the Lower Yakima Valley area, and the first of several planned by The Daily Sun.

The newspaper is already working on a Yakima Valley sports feed for the Amazon system. And staff is also working on adding similar voice-activated news for Google Home, with other systems to come.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the news business,” Harnack said. “It’s challenging, but exciting.”

Being able to offer a voice-activated product opens the door for sponsored content as well as promotions for local communities, events and businesses.

The publisher said he hopes “Alexa” users will tune in for a while and let the newspaper know what coverage they would like to receive from voice-activated technology.

The leap from print to voice-activated, on-demand news may seem far-fetched to some.

But, according to Harnack, it makes sense given the change in news consumption patterns of 20-somethings and teenagers.

“It’s the world millennials live in,” he said. “Media outlets will have to provide content on millennials terms to survive in tomorrow’s news industry.”


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