Issue 184,  published November 6, 2018

Citizen Alexa

Last week, Amazon rolled out a series of Alexa updates that lets users access US election information through the smart speaker platform. Bill Barton, the VP of Information on the Alexa team, noted in a corporate blog post that the move was a response to consumer behavior.

“Customers asked Alexa millions of questions during the 2016 presidential election and we’ve taken learnings to evolve and expand our elections experience for the midterms,” Barton wrote. These updates include the delivery of basic voter information — voter registration deadlines, polling times, what’s on the ballot, and so on, all through a partnership with Ballotpedia — and real-time election results.

Here’s what else that stands out to me: echoing similar initiatives carried out by Facebook and Twitter, it looks like the Alexa team is also building a pop-up human-staffed team to handle this major news event. “In addition to advanced AI and algorithm efforts, for every major moment like this, we also bring together a dedicated ‘war room’ of writers, engineers, and data scientists who work together to ensure Alexa is providing customers the most accurate information possible in real-time,” Barton wrote.

Amazon-as-information-company is… certainly a frontier to watch.

In related news:

Also: Looks like the NPR One team has hired Anne Li, who previously served the “interactive audio producer” at the Washington Post. As part of NPR One, she will be the Emerging Platform Lead, a role that involves finding “new ways” for the platform’s audiences to “get news coverage and public radio content on devices such as Alexa, Google Home, and other Voice Assistant Technology.”