When we’re trying to navigate to the latest news from around the world, we tend to use the traditional method of searching for an article on our news feed.
We’ll often tap a button or swipe up on an image to see a few paragraphs.
These are all fine when we’re doing our daily work, but we rarely get the chance to look up a new story on the newsfeed.
That’s why many people have switched to using services such as Alexa to listen to the news.
However, these services also require you to have a phone connected to the internet.
This can slow down your internet speed and often means you’ll have to pay a premium to get any news you want.
Al Jazeera’s Mark Thomas has been using an Android-powered phone app to listen in to the world’s news from the comfort of his own home.
“The idea of using the internet to get the news and to read it was really exciting,” he says.
“I was really excited to try something new.”
‘Time to move on’ When Al Jazeera started testing the Alexa-powered app in May, it wasn’t immediately clear how many people were using the service to listen.
“But we were seeing a lot of interest, and the idea was to see if it could be useful,” Thomas says.
A month later, he and two colleagues set about building a test app that they could use to test Alexa-enabled apps on their phones.
“We wanted to see how well it worked and if it was suitable for the mainstream market,” he adds.
The results were encouraging.
“In the first month, we saw a huge number of people signing up and using it, and by the end of that month, it was a huge success,” Thomas recalls.
In a few months, the team also received a huge influx of applications from developers, which had the same sort of reaction.
“They were all saying that they were using Alexa to discover news in a timely manner,” Thomas explains.
“So we wanted to hear from the developers as well.”
After some initial scepticism, the Alexa team decided that the app was good enough to be worth investing in.
Alarmingly, Thomas says the apps had been installed on just four smartphones and had only started to take off in March.
“One of the things that we’ve learned is that Alexa is a really powerful tool,” he explains.
“[It] really does help you understand what people are doing online.”
When we first installed Alexa on our Android phone, we could only listen to news from a select number of channels, with a handful of exceptions.
“This is why we did not expect Alexa to be able to understand our news,” he admits.
“Alexa was just reading from a small set of channels.”
Al Jazeera used this knowledge to create an application called AlarmManager to help users with Alexa-related alerts.
“Our main goal was to get Alexa to recognise and listen to our alerts,” Thomas notes.
“And then we would go into the Alarm Manager app and get them sorted into a few categories.”
This is where things get a bit tricky.
“When we first got the app, we realised that it was not working as intended,” Thomas admits.
This led him to create a new application, which he named AlarmManagement.
“What we’ve learnt from the first version of the app is that it works on both Android phones and tablets, so we have an easy way to get our alerts sorted into different channels and categories,” he added.
“AlarmManager allows us to create alerts and send them to our users.”
“So, we can have a notification saying, ‘Hey, we are seeing a news story on AlarmManagers’ channel, or ‘Hey Alarm, we have a news alert for Alarm.com’,” Thomas explains, pointing to a list of channels and an overview of what they are currently covering.
“If we wanted, we would also have a list for Alarms that are open for our users to check out.”
“Our customers are used to a lot more information being available in their news feeds,” he continued.
Alarm managers are also used to listening to news through other apps, such as the iHeartRadio App and the BBC iPlayer App. “
People are looking for the best news for their news feed and they will want to find that by using a service like Alarm.”
Alarm managers are also used to listening to news through other apps, such as the iHeartRadio App and the BBC iPlayer App.
“There are other services that you can use to listen, and there are apps that you need to register with to listen,” Thomas added.
Alarms were able to listen through the BBC’s iPlayer app on one phone, and it could listen through Alarm Management on another.
“It’s a great idea that you use Alarm to listen on your phone,” Thomas said.
“However, you do need to sign up for the service so you can listen in, but you can’t register