BBC News on Smart Speakers (Alexa, Give Me BBC News)
2020 Finalist

BBC News on Smart Speakers (Alexa, Give Me BBC News)


London, United Kingdom

Category Audio

Overview of this campaign

Voice technology will undoubtedly change how people get their news, what they expect of it, and what they want from providers like the BBC, which is why we’re taking it seriously. The interactive BBC News service is the result of months of prototyping, regular user testing and iteration. We believe it meets four key audience needs:

Ease and convenience: The bulletins are available at any time of day, unrestricted by the BBC’s broadcast schedules. It works as a lean-back, passive listen, or users can interact using simple commands like ‘Next’ and ‘Back’ to customise the experience to suit their context and preferences. They can skim the headlines or dig deeper into the stories that pique their interest.

Deepen understanding: In a world of soundbites, the deeper dive functionality means BBC journalists no longer have to forsake detail for brevity. By saying “Alexa, more from the BBC”, audiences can access the best BBC journalism on a given story. With the luxury of time, our reporters can explain the significance of events and give the colour, context and background we know audiences value. For example:

  • On-the-ground reports from the BBC’s global network of 250 correspondents, as well as analysis from in-house experts. 
  • Full-length statements or interviews like the recent BBC Panorama exclusive with Prince Andrew on the Epstein scandal.
  • Clips and interviews from the BBC’s vast digital archive. 
  • Audio explainers such as “Seven decades of US-Iran tensions”, one of the most requested deep-dives to date.

Engaging tone: We know from our audience research that users prefer a human voice to a synthetic one. Our journalists have developed a conversational style of presentation, which many say feels more intimate, more native to the medium of voice.  

Attribution: We have created a suite of bespoke audio assets to allow our BBC News brand to be easily identifiable on voice platforms, whilst also sounding fresh and modern. 

Now live, we are continuing to gather feedback to help develop the service.

Results for this campaign

For almost 100 years, BBC News has defined itself by its public service mission - to inform. It’s important that wherever our audiences are, they have access to news and information they know they can trust. 

The BBC’s interactive news service enshrines that same mission but is adapted to the power of this new smart technology. And it comes at an important moment, helping people to navigate one of the most dramatic news cycles in recent times. The challenge is to make sure every journey, every interaction has those core values - impartiality, accuracy, fairness - running through it.

Since the launch at the end of October 2019, audiences have turned to the service for coverage of the UK General Election, the killing of the Iranian general Qasem Solemani, and the outbreak of the coronavirus. They don’t just want to know what has happened — but understand why, to get meaning and insight.

In a few short months, we’ve learnt that audiences value features such as:

  • Fact check what someone (e.g. a politician) is saying

  • A backgrounder to a long-running story 

  • Jargon buster to help explain a complex story

  • 5 key facts about a story to help contextualise it

  • Flipside - surprising perspective you may not have considered

Our audiences have also told us they want to be able to further customise their bulletins, to get more on the topics they are interested in, and to pose direct questions to the BBC to fill in knowledge gaps or learn more about stories that really interest them. 

What’s exciting about voice as a platform is that unlike traditional channels, such as radio, we’ll learn about individuals’ interests and preferences through better data and two-way relationships. 

We want to get further into the territory of understanding what conversations people want to have with the BBC, making sure we have responses that are editorially solid, trustworthy and offer something that broadens their understanding of the world, in line with our public service values.


To contact a company representative about this campaign, click here for the INMA Member Directory

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