Doing something new

Say hello to an interactive BBC News

Hi, you’re reading Wakeword, a newsletter all about the interactive(!) bit where the news, voice-controlled devices and artificial intelligence collide.

If you’re enjoying it, and/or you know someone else who might, why not get them to sign up?


Radio silent for a long time, but I’m bringing some exciting short-but-sweet news.

After months of work by my team (and much more work by others), we’ve launched BBC interactive voice news for smart speakers - starting out with devices using Amazon Alexa.

It’s the UK’s first interactive voice news service, where you can ask your smart device to skip stories or ask for more information on others.

Try it out by saying “Alexa, give me BBC News”.

The past few days have been big for us because everyone else is finally getting to know what we’ve been up to for so long while we fine-tuned how it worked.

It was also fun because one of our journalists brought in these homemade smart speaker cupcakes to tide us over on Tuesday morning.

Here’s the rest of the BBC’s official press release - but, honestly, you’ll get more from just diving in and giving it a go if you can:

With more people using smart speakers than ever before, the BBC is reinventing the way it delivers news on voice devices. Today the BBC is launching the UK’s first interactive voice news service, to help people navigate a complex and ever changing news agenda and get closer to the stories that matter to them. 

People who use smart speakers can now skip ahead to the stories they have time for, and find out more about the stories that grab their attention by saying ‘Give me BBC News’ to an Alexa-enabled device. They’ll also be able to access additional content from a range of sources, including:

• Specialist pieces: Reporting, interviews and features from BBC News’ many specialist reporters and correspondents who add new angles on the day’s emerging stories

• Flexible bulletins: Listeners can get news bulletins at a time and length that suits them – not restricted by the BBC’s schedules, and can explore longer interviews or stories that are forced to make way for breaking news

• The BBC archive: Where relevant, clips and interviews from the BBC’s vast radio archive will supplement current stories, providing invaluable context and voices from the past

While the BBC’s traditional bulletins might only have time to play a short clip of a speech in the House of Commons, people who use smart speakers who’d like more detail on the story can now decide to listen to the speech in full. As well as this, listeners could also take a trip down memory lane with the BBC archives and delve into past interviews from stars currently in the news agenda.

I’ll be back soon, when I want to talk one of the things I’m finding most exciting about working on a voice news service - how we can change up our language and move away from how journalists are expected to talk.