In France, 20 Minutes is the leading news provider for young adults ages 15 to 50. Launched in 2002 as a printed free daily newspaper, 20 Minutes soon began its digital journey with a desktop Web site in 2002, launching a mobile application in 2007.

At 20 Minutes, user engagement is part of our DNA, and we have always led the game on providing news via “traditional” devices. Now the time has come to embrace AI (Artificial Intelligence).

In April 2017, we decided to develop a 20 Minutes Amazon Alexa news skill. Within five days of development, we were ready to launch in the United States and in the United KingdomIn June 2017, we also launched in Germany. 

A simple voice request gives Amazon Alexa users instant access to 14 categories of news topics from 20 Minutes.
A simple voice request gives Amazon Alexa users instant access to 14 categories of news topics from 20 Minutes.

We were the first French media outlet to develop an Alexa skill. Our initial purpose was to provide French-speaking presidential election news for expatriates. In the past few months, we have expanded the amount of news content we provide beyond the election, and now 14 news categories are included with the 20 Minutes Alexa skill.

News consumers can add the skill and organise the topics in the settings panel of the Alexa App. Then, at any moment of the day, an Alexa user can get the latest updates just by asking “Alexa, what’s in the news?” Mathieu, a text-to-speech voice, tells the most important news in a handful of seconds.

Based on a serverless architecture, this small application generates about 300 audio files daily. It runs on Amazon Web Services via some Lambda functions and generates polysynthetic voices. Serverless in the cloud is our top priority and helps us to reduce infrastructure costs.

As a result of this skill, we are able to offer a key audience segment a richer experience. This development also will allow us to launch a flash briefing skill all over the world. At 20 Minutes, digital innovation is at the core of our vision, and projects like our Alexa skill help us to move forward.