Considering the rate of adoption of voice-enabled devices (smart speakers have surpassed AR, VR, and wearables in market share, becoming the fastest growing consumer technology in recent times), it is obvious that these devices are going to be a transformational force in the growth of podcasting. More and more people are moving to smart speakers as their primary source of podcast consumption. 

Amazon Echo series, with its built-in Alexa voice-assistant, is by far the most popular smart speaker segment in the US market, with over 60% of market share. Naturally, advertisers are moving their marketing budgets to the voice-enabled channel. Given all this, it is becoming imperative for podcasters to create their personalized presence on these ‘smart’ gadgets

The first question for most podcasters is: How do I get my podcast series on to the Alexa channel? And the answer is simple: There are a handful of platforms out there that help you do that. The harder question here is: What should you look for in such platforms? Read on to know the 5 must-have features in a platform that lets you create an Alexa skill for your podcast series.

1. Hassle-free content upload

An important question you want to ask is: Do I need to upload all my episodes again or can I just map my existing feed into the platform and let the platform pull my content from my feed? It is also important that the platform presents an easy to understand interface and hides all the technicalities involved in the process of creating your Alexa skill. This will ensure that you remain focused on creating great content for your podcasts, rather than getting lost in the technicalities involved in the process. 

2. Listening experience offered to your followers

Did you know that one of the biggest reasons why people who do not consume podcasts on smart speakers avoid it, is because they feel that the listening experience offered is not great. For example, listeners are not able to forward / rewind an episode, jump to an episode of their choice, start the episode from a particular minute or jump around the episode list – like the way they are used to doing while listening to podcasts on a smartphone. This maybe a big reason why people are not listening to your podcast on Alexa from your TuneIn listing!

A platform to create an Alexa skill for your podcasts should enable your listeners to take all those actions on your skill using simple voice commands. This will ensure a truly hands-free, screen-free experience – thus delivering superior quality listening. This, in turn, will lead to more listeners coming back to your skill, and even growing your listener base. And who wouldn’t want that?!

3. Listener analytics

Is there anything more valuable about the data corresponding to your listeners? It is obvious that anyone who has a better view of data will be able to capture, retain and grow their audiences more effectively. 

Data points like how many people are listening to your podcast on the Alexa channel, how many of these users are repeat users of your Alexa skill, what is the feedback about your podcasts and weekly / monthly trends of the number of hits to your skill are absolutely valuable. 

Hence the platform that you choose has to have a dashboard that allows you to track these important metrics. As they say, data is the new oil.

4. Ability to personalize the listening experience

In today’s world, a personalized user experience is no more a “marketing strategy”, but a norm, when it comes to any product or service promotion. A personalized podcast – an experience personalized specifically for your user base – will go a long way in improving stickiness of your podcast.

The first step towards personalization is to have your custom presence on this voice-enabled channel. This means that people are able to say, for example, “Alexa, open Funny Chicago Diary” rather than listening to it from the TuneIn directory. Personalization could also mean adding a custom show opener message, or saying good bye in your own typical style as listeners exit from your skill. Such features help you in building a personal rapport with your audiences, increasing chances of your podcast getting a better word of mouth publicity. And by the way, such show opener / closing messages could be very well used for injecting customized pre-roll and post-roll ads as well! 

Make sure that the platform that you choose has the ability to personalize these aspects of your podcast.

5. Multi-modal experience

Smart speakers with screens provide a more immersive user experience. Even though there are fewer users using voice-enabled devices with a screen (like the Echo Spot or Echo Show) currently, it is only a matter of time when users upgrade to these devices. Therefore, it is important that the platform you choose helps you create a skill that is optimized to play on various kinds of voice-enabled devices – with or without screens. 

Some of the other features in a platform that allows you to create an Alexa skill for your podcast could include the ability to social share the link to your Alexa skill, enabling your listeners to be notified of an update to your podcast if they have subscribed to the same or even the ability to pull content from multiple feeds. Well, the wish list could go on and on, but at least the above-mentioned five features are non-negotiable.

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