Now that diginomica has a podcast reboot, it's time to revisit a topic I hit on last year: can you get a decent Flash Briefing for enterprise professionals out of Alexa?
Yes, Alexa can do that for you - but it will take a bit of trial and error.
There still isn't a set of slam dunk Flash Briefing options for enterprise pros. You may find podcasts like diginomica's easier than setting up a special Flash Briefing. So why should you bother?
Well, if you're like me, and you enjoy shorter daily briefings from a range of sources, then a Flash Briefing is a neat way to personalize your daily audio. You can set up a nice audio flow of 10 - 20 shorter briefs that get you oriented each day. (And yes, Google now has a Flash Briefing equivalent).
Alexa, is a tech Flash Briefing at all useful?
Can enterprise pros get a good briefing out of Alexa? It depends:
- Tech news? Yes, you can get some quality consumer tech news and analysis
- Business news? Check, there are some good financial market overviews
This means you can get a pretty good market context. Then you'll have to go outside Flash Briefing to get more enterprise angles. Content is one angle to consider. Work style is another:
- Are you already using Alexa at home for audio content, via Echo-type devices?
- Do you have 5-20 minute timeframes where you are walking, cleaning, or puttering and enjoy audio content?
- Do you already consume business audio content on your phone? Alexa users can get Flash Briefings via their phone also.
If that's a fit so far, here's how I set my Flash Briefing up. The default Flash Briefing isn't very useful, so you need to go into Alexa Settings and customize it:
- The order of your Flash Briefing is important. Alexa isn't good about pausing or continuing Flash Briefings - except on your phone display.
- I front load the Flash Briefing with quick essentials like sports, weather, and Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal market minutes. That way I can always drop off quickly.
- I avoid longer podcasts on my Flash Briefing. The longest things I have on there are the Wired daily and Planet Money. Those come near the end. For listening to longer podcasts, I still prefer to subscribe to those individually on Spotify or iTunes.
Flash Briefings are like a smaller, overlapping universe inside of Alexa. You have to enable the Flash Briefing "skills" you want, and they work within the Flash Briefing once you activate them. You can order them however you like. Most of these Flash Briefing skills can be consumed individually outside of the Flash Briefing format as well, but I find it useful to organize them in one briefing and listen to them sequentially.
You can skip over sections you don't want to hear on a given day (I use the "skip" command for that, or you can manually skip as well on phone/computer).
Flash Briefing - content caveats
Before I show you my setup, some caveats to keep in mind:
- There is only one Flash Briefing at this time. That means you have to lump all of your interests into one Flash Briefing.
- Many Flash Briefing “skills” either suck eggs or are not frequently updated. There is quite a bit of trial and error finding the good ones. I’ll show you mine, which could expedite.
- I hit some overlap in the tech news briefings I listen to. I don't mind that, but if you don't want the overlap, you'll want to limit how many tech news briefings you listen to.
- All the regularly updated tech news briefings have some level of gadget obsession. For example, this week there is a good deal of absurd/unbecoming fawning over Samsung's pending "folding phone" announcement. Why do I listen? Because you also get important info, like the latest security issues/hacks. Today, for example, the Wall Street Journal had some useful context on Amazon's decision to pull out of their New York City expansion.
- The biggest downside to audio news? Tagging the essential. Typically, I keep a small notepad with me and type in keywords if something crucial is mentioned. I then search out the news and tag it next time I'm in curation mode, via Instapaper and/or Evernote. You may have a better system for this than I do.
My biztech Flash Briefing setup
The Flash Briefing on the phone works differently. On Android, you can now access your Flash Briefing through the main Alexa app. Here's how it works on iPhones.
So here's my current Flash Briefing format, in order:
As you can see, I move quickly from local sports addiction -> weather -> market news -> the tech briefings.
Those tech briefings are prioritized based on which I like best. That way, if I drop off the Flash Briefing for the day, I've heard the best one. Though frankly, none of the tech briefings listed are great, and none are awful.
The briefing continues:
The above section of the briefing gets a bit sketchier. You may be wondering why the Wall Street Tech Briefing is so far down. That's because it's one longer interview each time, and some of the topics don't really do it for me. "This Week in Tech" is more of a sampler of one of their shows. It's hit or miss, not too long, but sometimes too chatty. I also listen to some tech headlines read by Alexa, such as "Next Web" and "Cybersecurity news." I don't mind Alexa reading some headlines, but you might not care for it.
"Digitalist by SAP" is a noble attempt by a vendor to make a relevant briefing. I give SAP credit, as no other vendor has even given this a shot. Frankly, I find it pretty corny half the time, and it's not refreshed daily. But - it's only enterprise-themed skill on the briefing.
Then, the final section:
I don't usually make it through this section. Planey Money is closer to an old school podcast. Then we have a series of general news reports to wrap it up. By now, I've usually moved on from puttering and onto my laptop where I'm going through my enterprise feeds on screen.
Final tips and tricks
The Flash Briefing experience on the phone is different. You can manually skip to the next skill more easily on the phone, or pause the briefing manually as well. That's useful, as pausing the briefing verbally can be a pain. Especially if you live with a fellow Alexa buff who wants to listen to some good tunes instead of tech jabber.
The big thing here is with a phone option, if you get into a Flash Briefing routine at home, you can keep it up on the road as well.
We're just scratching the surface with personalized audio content, but I still like what the Flash Briefing can do. It takes some fussing to get the skills and order right, but then you're good.
As for shifting to enterprise news, you can then head over to our diginomica podcast. On some weekdays, you'll get Den's audio review of our diginomica daily newsletter. Longer podcasts with movers and shakers are also there for you. At some point, we may well add a version of this to Flash Briefings, but for now, it's a separate deal, but you can get it on your podcasting app of choice now.
If you supplement a more general biz/tech Flash Briefing with something more enterprisey on the side, you might have the right mix for your day.