How Hearst uses Alexa for Elle and Good Housekeeping

Thanks to voice-activated assistants like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home, audio is having a moment with publishers. At Hearst, that means about a dozen Hearst employees have been placed in a group devoted to bringing the publisher’s content to souped-up speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

So far, Hearst has developed just two voice skills — for Elle and Good Housekeeping — with another voice product in its final testing phase that should debut in the next month or two, said Chris Papaleo, executive director of emerging technology at Hearst. The Elle Skill reads horoscopes to users and the Good Housekeeping Skill gives users instructions on how to remove stains. Papaelo expects upcoming products will have a sponsor, but he declined to name who might be involved.

A Hearst spokesperson said that 84 percent of its Echo users use a Hearst skill at least once a month, and only about 3 percent of its users cancel their Hearst skill. The spokesperson added that, on average, users spend about 3 minutes per session on its Elle horoscope skill and users generally request multiple horoscopes each session, so it is likely the product is being used in a group setting. Hearst did not state how many people are using the Skills overall.

Papaelo said that more products are in the works and the company is looking to expand into business-to-business skills, but he declined to provide release dates or details.

“We are not going to all of the different Hearst brands and forcing them all to push their text into a voice format,” he said. “It is more of an approach to develop truly voice-first experiences. That means working with the platforms to identify what are the features of the platform and matching that up with the creative and editorial.”

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