The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is launching a new collaboration with the Seattle-based tech giant — and this time they’re delving into politics.
Users of the Amazon Echo smart speaker can now access election news and content “written exclusively for Alexa,” the company’s virtual assistant, by Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza. Amazon announced the news to Echo owners in an email update this week.
The political blog entries from Cillizza are read completely in Alexa’s voice. GeekWire contributor Frank Catalano, our resident Echo user, tested it out this morning and notes that the effect is “a bit odd when Alexa, for example, reads direct quotes from Hilary Clinton.” He explains, “It’s like Nina Totenberg of NPR citing quotes of the Supreme Court Justices during oral arguments, but without actual inflection or personality.”
Echo users can enable the content by going to “Settings” in the Alexa App, choosing “Flash Briefing,” and turning on the Washington Post. Then they can ask, “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”
This is just part of an array of news content available to Echo users via Alexa, but the notion of a blogger writing exclusive content for a virtual assistant is an interesting development that underscores how experimental The Washington Post has become under Bezos’ leadership.
In some cases those experiments are done in partnership with Amazon, such as a Washington Post app that’s available for free for six months to users of Amazon’s fire tablets. Bezos also brainstorms with Washington Post leaders, generating ideas including some very bad ones that never make it off the drawing board.