3 Tips for Increasing Your Listeners Through an Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing
This is a guest post by Adrian Simple. Adrian is the Founder of The Gaming Observer. After just one year, his Flash Briefing of the same name has approximately 1,000 daily listeners and 350 reviews. Currently it is the #1 rated Alexa news skill in the US and UK, #3 in Canada.
If you have a passion about a particular hobby or niche, you should consider creating your own Flash Briefing. I get thousands of listeners a week from my gaming briefing, and I’m just some shmuck who all of a sudden has career opportunities because of it.
I guarantee that there are thousands of people reading this who really really love something and could talk about it for hours. It could be broad (music, movies, sports) or niche (rock climbing, knitting, mini golf, literally anything else). If this is you, consider creating your own Flash Briefing.
There is more to the feature than CNN and Reuters, and the potential for it is insane. Last year, I started a briefing of my own called The Gaming Observer. Literally all I do is talk about the day’s news in video games, add a bit of music, and call it a day. Now, I’ve got close to 350 Amazon reviews across all regions, and ~1,000 daily listeners. This happened in one year. I graduate in two years in a completely different field, and this has set me on a new career path.
Thousands of people want their niche’s news delivered to them, and right now nobody is there to deliver it. Be that person. You’ll likely have a monopoly (I mean geez, there’s barely any native Flash Briefing for MOVIES. That’s more popular than video games!). And with voice tech predicted to explode in the next few years, you’ll be ahead of the game. This is Youtube 2007 all over again.
It’s super easy, but there’s also some best practices that are important to keep in mind (and I promise I’ve got nothing to sell). Here they are.
3 Pillars of a Successful Flash Briefing
The Gaming Observer is not a major corporation that is able to output hundreds of hours of content per day. It’s not even a small business! It is me alone, in my home, recording a show every night. A broke theatre student living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. If I can succeed, so can you.
Pillar 1 – Authenticity
Absolutely everything you ever do with your FB loops back to this one, which is why it is the first pillar. You must be authentic. Consumers have been trained to detect the bullshit, and your show is no exception. I don’t care if you are an independent creator or a corporation – if your audience thinks that you are not being real with them, you will lose them. It may not be immediately, and it may take different forms, but it will happen. Remember, all it takes is for someone to say “Alexa, disable ____,” and you will never be heard from again. Unlike advertisements, you cannot just spend money to insert yourself into their lives.
The most unique thing about briefings over other mediums of consumption is that you are directly transported into people’s homes. This creates a connection between you and your listeners that is unparalleled. Here is a review I got from Kyle, which is something I hear a lot:
Adrian has captured a unique blend of professionalism and personality: I feel like I’m getting news from a friend… and that friend happens to have the chops of a professional reporter. Keep it coming!
What could be better than that? It is the perfect opportunity to share something with your community, because they trust you like they would a friend. That shouldn’t be taken advantage of.
I am going to outline two of the things that have kept me authentic, but keep in mind that this is a concept that forms uniquely, and evolves with time. This is what worked for me, but it might not work for you. Iterate until you find what does.
1) Being Completely Honest
Something I take great pride in is that I never present infallibility. I don’t have the advantage of pre-recording content, which means I have to record each night. Sometimes, I need to take a night off because my personal life is getting too stressful. Other times, I forget to upload the audio, or there are technical issues. In all situations, I let my audience know what is going on. By not pretending like everything is fine, listeners have begun to empathize with me. Humans are not perfect. Broke students who have never run a business before are especially not perfect. They know I do this in my spare time, so they are going to stick around when I cannot use that spare time to give them something.
Perhaps more important is that I am not a charlatan. Just because I have been talking about video games every day for a year does not mean I know everything about them. Just because I talk about the news does not mean I am a journalist. Instead, I have made it my mission to learn as much as I can, and I have asked my audience to join me on that journey. Isn’t that way more exciting than saying “I know it all and let me tell it to you?”
2) I Am Not A “Flash Briefer.” I Am Just Someone Who Loves Video Games
This has been so fundamental, that it was almost a fourth pillar. You want to know why my audience trusts me as a host? Because they know I love my topic. Because they know that no matter what, I will prioritize that topic above anything else. With other mediums, like YouTube or podcasts, creators spend too much time trying to figure out how to “make it,” and they lose sight of why they are there in the first place. It applies to Alexa as well.
Yes, I did start my FB because the market was wide open, and yes, pretty much the only reason I even had the chance to succeed was because of the platform. But no, I am not a “flash briefer.” Listeners are not interested in hearing from “flash briefers” unless they too are “flash briefers.” The reason why people feel like I am a friend telling them the news is because I am a gamer first, and a show host second. There is no hiding behind my brand, platform, or ideologies. It’s me, Adrian Simple, and I’m here to tell you the news.
Pillar 2 – Quality Content
This is the most ambiguous and subjective section of the article, because the fact is that “quality” is defined entirely differently from FB to FB. It is also vital to one’s success.
The best thing you can do for yourself when figuring out your content is to listen to other FBs. The popular ones AND the ones that have no Amazon reviews. What do you like? What do you dislike? Learn from those things, adapt them into your content, and then don’t be afraid to iterate on it. People are constantly trying new things on the platform, and we don’t yet have a formula that everyone follows. Take advantage of the fact that people are still experimenting, and find what is best for you. Do not accept that there is any definitive answer to your questions. Be transparent about trying new things.
There are a lots to consider when determining content. In the list below, I’m going to provide my thoughts on the most important things you should have in mind. Not only that, but there are some myths about FBs that I would absolutely love to debunk.
Native Content – This is a big one to consider. Are you going to compile audio specifically designed/recorded for the FB, or will you repurpose content, from something like a podcast? Both are valid approaches, but more than anything, you need to have the listener in mind. The FB should be fully consumable and valuable, not just an ad for other content.
Length – When I first started The Gaming Observer, I came across blog after blog saying that “a flash briefing MUST be 1-2 minutes at most.” There was this idea that “flash briefing” was equal to “as brief as possible,” which is very much not the case. Amazon lets you submit up to 10 minutes of audio, and you should be using that however is best for you. Personally, I felt like 2 minutes was too short for what I wanted to accomplish. Then I realized 5 minutes had me rambling too long. So I settled anywhere between 3-4. If your content is perfectly consumed at 8 minutes of length, let it be so. But it must all be worthwhile for the audience. Iterate.
“Off-Topic Time” – This is any amount of time you are literally not talking about your topic. I have heard way too many FBs that spend more than 50% of their time talking about something other than the subject. Keep in mind, just because it is off-topic does not mean it is wasted. Thanking listeners for their 5-star reviews is an essential part of my FB that is time worth spending. But if it took up a third of my content, the quality degrades. The longer your briefing, the more time you can spend diverted from the topic, and vice versa.
Audience Interaction – Think back to what I said about listeners feeling like I’m a friend (or, at least, more than a stranger). Their experience is enriched by the fact that they not only enjoy my content, but me as a host. Now what do you think will happen when I start interacting with them directly? Indeed, I thank every person that leaves me a review on the show. I also respond to every email, tweet, and YouTube comment. Breaking the fourth wall has been vital to having listeners return to the show. Again, you have to know what works for you, but it cannot be ignored outright.
Pillar 3 – Consistency
Flash briefings are automatically delivered to most users – they usually have it programmed into their pre-set routines. So if the new day’s content is outdated? “Alexa…Skip.” Too many skips, and they might start realizing that you do not have much to offer – or if they are new, wondering if you are still making content.
My basic philosophy when it comes to frequency of content is this: it does not matter how often you make your FB, as long as it is consistent, and clearly outlined to the listener. While most people likely prefer daily updates, your show might not be well suited for it. So you set your schedule to 3 days a week, or to take weekends off. As long as you are upfront about the reasons (Pillar 1), the content is worth sticking around for (Pillar 2) and you adhere to the schedule, your audience will forgive you.
Staying punctual is important. Not only does it guide the listener’s expectations, but it supervises your own. My FB is daily, with a special pre-recorded show on Sundays. This means I get my Saturday evenings off; now my audience does not expect the most recent news from me, but I also do not feel guilty for not working. Both sides are happy.
So what of the aforementioned issue of “too many skips?” It is actually really simple, and I don’t see enough of it in other FBs – just keep the audience updated! If I ever have to take a day off, I throw up 15 seconds of audio explaining the situation. No interaction with Alexa needed, it will automatically move them on to the next part of their routine. Now they know to stick around for the next day, and their morning has not been interrupted.
A consistent schedule has more than a practical benefit, though. Take a look at this review from Meg and her husband:
We listen everyday and at this point Adrian is as part of our morning routine as a cup of coffee. We always feel up to date on the latest in the gaming world.
All of a sudden I am not just another person with a microphone rambling about nothing. Instead, I am equivalent to their morning coffee. While this is incredibly humbling, it also creates an expectation. Meg can reliably assume that every morning, her coffee machine will provide that oh-so-necessary caffeine, and Adrian Simple will talk about video games.
“Consistency” is not just a buzzword. It keeps you in check. It manages expectations. More than anything, it gives your listener something to look forward to. And nothing is better than that.
Flash Briefings are exciting. The concept is brand new, and people are experimenting with it constantly. Some people have already seen success, but we are nowhere close to the potential of this technology.
These are only a few of the lessons I have learned since I started The Gaming Observer last year. By no means is this article definitive, nor is it comprehensive, but these pillars have guided me in making my show what it is today. I have listened to a lot of FBs, and many of them are missing one of those three pillars. Without one, the rest collapse. If you’re thinking about starting your own, or are reevaluating an existing one, perhaps this will give you something to consider!
If you are thinking about starting your own Flash Briefing, I’d be more than happy to help! Hit me up on Twitter, @gaming_observer, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready to get started? Click the “Start Your Flash Briefing” button to begin growing your audience with an Amazon Alexa Flash Briefing!