New York Times is betting that more people want the news read to them. Photo: Bloomberg
New York: The New York Times is expanding further into audio with five new offerings for Amazon.com Inc.’s speakers, including a shorter version of its hit podcast, The Daily. Starting Friday, The Daily will produce a news briefing on weekdays for the Amazon Echo, a voice-enabled speaker with a built-in assistant named Alexa. The free news briefing will be sponsored by the carmaker Audi and be read by host Michael Barbaro.
The 167-year-old paper is trying to rely less on print while seeking new forms of digital distribution. The new programs also let the company capitalize on booming sales of smart speakers—devices that include Google Home and Apple HomePod. Last week, Amazon said it has sold more than 100 million products with Alexa built in.
The Daily podcast takes a deep dive into a specific news topic and typically runs about 20 minutes. The new briefing, in contrast, will only be about three minutes. Owners of Amazon speakers can start it by saying “Alexa, enable the New York Times briefing.”
“It’s meant to be a short rundown of what you need to know in the news every morning,” Times voice editor Dan Sanchez said in an interview.
One drawback is it’s hard to discover new features without a screen. To make up for that, the print edition of Sunday’s New York Times will include prompts for readers who have Amazon speakers to hear more about pop music, books and travel. The Times also plans to introduce an interactive news quiz every Friday with multiple-choice questions.
On-demand audio is evolving, with podcasts of different lengths to fit into your day—from the time it takes to commute to work or brush your teeth. While some people use smart speakers to quickly get the weather or news, others want to listen to songs or hourlong podcasts. Some also use them to play interactive trivia and quizzes.
The Times is pushing deeper into a crowded landscape. Several major media companies, including AT&T Inc.’s CNN, the Associated Press and the Washington Post, produce flash briefings for Alexa. But The Daily has proven to be a valuable asset for the Times. It generated more than $10 million in advertising revenue last year, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The Times and Audi, owned by German car giant Volkwagen AG, declined to disclose the terms of their advertising partnership, which runs through most of February.
For the first time, Audi also developed its own so-called “skill” for Amazon speakers in collaboration with the Times’ T Brand Studio, which makes content for advertisers. Alexa will answer questions about Audi’s new electric vehicles.
The carmaker sees interactive voice as a new way to reach consumers with advertising.
“We’re interested in where this is ultimately going to lead us,” said Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing at Audi of America.