Today XAPPmedia launched a new self-service solution called Voice Radio which allows radio stations to create an Alexa skill by filling out an online form. XAPP claims that the entire process only takes five minutes and the company will then ensure the skill is live and available to listeners in a week. In the company’s press release, Pat Higbie commented:
“Just think. Someone at a radio station can take five minutes today to enter a few pieces of information into an online form and have their station live on Alexa next week…Our beta testing proved that Voice Radio can deploy custom Alexa skills at scale. We are excited to provide a fast and affordable way for radio stations to reach their listeners directly through Amazon Alexa.”
The Race to Get on Alexa
XAPPmedia has certainly seen demand from radio stations as the company has already launched over 200 Alexa skills for radio stations. XAPP says more are set to launch in the coming weeks. One reason is that radio stations want to quickly claim their invocation name. Like website URLs, each Alexa skill invocation name has to be unique. For the radio industry, this is particularly a problem as many stations can share similar or even identical brand names. This wasn’t an issue when they were all constrained to their local media audience. Online radio streaming changed that dynamic.
Call letters for radio stations may be unique but a country station in Tulsa and a rock station in Miami could have the same brand phrase they use to market to listeners. For radio stations, being able to be found by their brand name is also important because many listeners do not know their call letters, which is the only way most stations can be correctly found on Alexa today through TuneIn according to Higbie.
Similar to the rush to claim domain names during the early days of the internet, I believe we are about to see a rush from brands and media to claim their invocation names on Alexa. But unlike domain names, organizations cannot simply buy an invocation name and sit on it. They have to launch an Alexa skill to claim it and maintain it. This is why self-service platforms like XAPP’s Voice Radio solution could be important. It allows organizations to quickly build an Alexa skill and claim ownership of their brand name on Alexa.
An Affordable Solution
XAPP is charging just $59 per month and waiving set up fees for its entry-level package during a launch promotion period. That pricing is not going to make other Alexa skill developers happy. The solution is limited to radio stations today and XAPP chief product officer Michael Myers suggested the company can offer such competitive pricing because they have automated much of the skill development and deployment processes. Earlier this month XAPP was referenced by Amazon as an early user of its SMAPI (i.e. Skill Management API) for Alexa. Myers said in a comment on Amazon’s Alexa blog:
We leverage the Alexa Skill Management API to programmatically push and publish skills all from within our self-serve voice app builder. We went from copying and pasting the information to just clicking a button within our web application. We are now able to push new skills faster and with fewer errors which leaves us more time to concentrate on building better skills.
Will We See More Self-Service Options for Voice Apps?
Conversation.One announced a templated, self-service Alexa skill development solution for banks in early September. With XAPP’s announcement for radio, it seems likely that we will see more self-service options targeted at industry verticals. This mirrors trends we saw for the web and mobile where early custom development work often revealed best practices that were baked into templates to simplify deployment. Skill publishers still need to think through design and there will be many more custom voice apps developed in the near-term, but the rise of self-service is likely to fuel further activity and bring more companies onto voice platforms.