Last week Amazon launched Alexa Skill Blueprints that allow anyone to publish new skills to the Alexa Skills Store without having to have any coding knowledge. The blueprints are templates that provide a starting point where users can create a new skill by filling in the blanks and then publish it to the store for US customers.
This first round of blueprints is targeted at content creators, bloggers, and organizations. It includes blueprints for personal trainers, flashcards, facts, quizzes, and a fable blueprint for storytellers. There are also new blueprints available called University and Spiritual Talks for live and recorded audio content from institutions and organizations.
Amazon has also created a blueprint specifically for WordPress blogs. It works in connection with the Amazon AI Plugin for WordPress to read blogs aloud on Alexa-enabled devices. Setup is not trivial but it is much easier for users than having to create their own blueprints from scratch.
How to Get Alexa to Read Your WordPress Blog Aloud
According to Amazon’s announcement, the new WordPress blog blueprint converts posts into speech and creates an audio RSS feed:
The Amazon AI Plugin for WordPress is a sample application that enables WordPress bloggers to easily convert their blog posts into speech by leveraging Text-to-Speech (TTS) and translation tools provided by Amazon. Bloggers can generate an audio feed (RSS feed) for text-based blog content, and simply add this to the new Blog blueprint to create and publish their own Alexa skill.
If you want to get this working for your WordPress blog, the first step is to install the official Amazon AI Plugin for WordPress. Follow the instructions on the Blog skill blueprint page. The plugin will generate an RSS feed that you will enter into your skill content section. It also needs to be configured with the AWS access key, secret key, and AWS region. There are options available for specifying a post type, enable logging, audio player settings, the ability to exclude certain tags from generating audio, translations, audio excerpts, and more.
After setting up the plugin, you can complete the blueprint by customizing the welcome messages, naming the skill, and publishing it to the Alexa Skills Store, as demonstrated in the video below. Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device can then have Alexa read your RSS feed to them.
Amazon also introduced a new blueprint for creating flash briefing skills, which include short-form content in the form of an audio feed. This format lends itself well to local weather reports, news and sports updates, and other information that can be quickly communicated via an audio update. This may be another option that WordPress news site owners may want to consider. The flash briefing skills page has instructions for creating one and there is also an unofficial WordPress plugin called WP Alexa Flash Briefing that has its own Alexa skill already set up.
If you want to go one step further and manage your WordPress blog with Alexa, the Blog Helper skill will enable you to log new drafts and moderate comments. It’s available on GitHub.