One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.
Customize What You Have
In the Alexa app on your mobile device or the web version, head to Settings. Scroll down to Flash Briefing and see what’s already there. Everything will be turned on, and you’ll get just the basics unless you’ve configured it.
If you think you’d like a briefing in the future, but not now, just toggle it off. If you want to permanently disable a Flash Briefing skill, you’ll need to head over to the Skills section in the app and then tap Your Skills. Find the skill you want to disable and then tap Disable Skill. You don’t delete the skill, which makes sense since nothing installs on your Alexa device.
When I’m going to be listening to the Flash Briefing for a while (maybe I’m doing laundry or cooking), I’ll turn on a few more briefings to keep me company. That’s a quick toggle in the app rather than heading over to the Skills section and enabling a skill.
Flash Briefings are Account Specific
Unlike Google Home, Alexa lets you switch accounts. That means you don’t have to share news stories. I share my Echo and Dot with other members of the house. To get just my stuff, I always ask it to switch to my account before she starts the briefing. If you aren’t sure whose account you are in, just ask Alexa “Who am I?”
Finding New Flash Briefings
As of this writing, Amazon has thousands of sources for flash briefings. The sources they include can be hyper-local like your local news station. Amazon also has specific topics like tech or business, or general info. Many of these sources, like NPR, are podcasts provided by Tune-In. These briefings are audio files Alexa plays for you. Other sources like the AP news stories are read in Alexa’s voice. I wish Amazon told you which ones were audio files because her voice drones on after a while. I hope I get to change her voice like I can with Siri. Right now, you can just change the language to the English (UK) or German.
To find other briefings, you can check Amazon’s Skills area on the web, or tap Get more Flash Briefing content in the same Settings >> Flash Briefing area in the app.
Change the Order Of Your Briefings
Since some briefings are longer than others, I put the most important briefings first. These are usually the shorter ones. From the same Settings >> Flash Briefing area in the app, tap Edit Order to organize the sequence of briefings.
You’ll need to tap the hamburger icon on the right-hand side and drag each briefing to the position you want. When you’re finished, don’t forget to tap Done.
Skip the Briefings While Listening
Some briefings change hourly, while others change daily or weekly. Instead of wasting your time listening to a story you’ve already heard, just tell Alexa to skip that briefing. She’ll go to the next one on your list. Sometimes she won’t hear you because she’s talking. Either speak louder or just tap the listen button on the top of your device.
Just to give you someplace to start, here are my briefings and the order:
- NPR Hourly News Summary: this podcast is just a few minutes and gives me the key news of the day.
- Alexa Things to Try: one killer tip from Amazon on how to use your Alexa.
- CNN Flash Briefing: another source of daily news.
- Associated Press Headlines: Alexa reads these short headlines.
- NPR Business Story of the Day: an in-depth view of a particular story.
- NPR World Story of the Day: an in-depth view of a world news story.
- The Wall Street Journal What’s News: a few more headlines, I often skip this.
- The Wall Street Journal Your Money Matters: a short money podcast.
- The Wall Street Journal Tech News Briefing: an in-depth news story.
- Harvard Business Review Management Tip: one tip of the day.
- CNET News: more tech news.
- TechCrunch: I know some editors there, so I like hearing what they’re up to.
I’m constantly changing the order and the briefings depending on what’s new, and my whim. All this takes about 20-25 minutes. That’s enough time for me to let the dog out, make my morning coffee and empty the dishwasher.