The BBC is Launching an Interactive News Service for Smart Speakers

By Tom Pritchard on at

There's a lot of news out there in the world, and getting through it all can be a bit of a pain - especially if you end up being drowned in stuff you don't like hearing about. Like Brexit, or how some reality TV star did a thing that annoyed another one, and they're now bitter rivals until the producers decide they should make up on camera.

Now, to make it easier for you to better "navigate the complex news agenda and get closer to the stories that matter" the BBC has launched a new interactive news service for Amazon's Alexa and all the devices it's in.

The idea behind this move is that you can ask Alexa to tell you more about certain stories or news items by using your voice. The idea is simple, you ask Alexa to "Give me BBC News". You can then work through the bulletins by asking for "more from the BBC" if you want more context, or "skip" to skip through to the next story.

Asking for more on a story pulls out extra background information to help you understand what's going on, and even uses material from the BBC archive.

The service is a bit wonky right now, and the voice commands don't always register. Sometimes it takes two or three attempts to skip through to the next story, but that's more an Alexa issue than the BBC. And not all the stories have extra information, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Mukul Devichand, executive editor, BBC Voice + AI, said:

"Smart speakers give us the chance to reimagine what radio would be like if it were invented today, free from its technical limitations. By making the news interactive on smart speakers, listeners can jump to the stories they need to hear just before rushing out of the house, or, when they have more time, they can delve into a piece and find out more.

Delivering the trusted content people expect from the BBC, this new form of audio news comes at an important moment. It will help people navigate through one of the most dramatic news cycles in recent times.”

Andy Webb, Head of Product, BBC Voice + AI, said:

“A world of opportunities open up once you connect a speaker to the internet and make it interactive. We’re taking advantage of that by combining our world-class content makers and engineers, exploring how this exciting new medium could look and how we can better serve our audiences now and in future.”

The goal is to make the news process a lot more convenient and flexible, though it will require the BBC to put more effort into this new service if it's going to succeed beyond the existing BBC News bulletins.

The new interactive service is available on Alexa devices now, and the BBC says it will expand to other platforms in the future.