I haven’t blogged in years, but some things are better done in this format than as Facebook posts or tweets. I got an Echo Dot a couple months ago, and I wanted to make it play both my podcasts without having to use some 3rd party podcast app. I tried a bunch of things involving making skills using Node.js, Python, Lambda, and all kinds of AWS services, before I realized that it actually was pretty easy to make an Alexa skill that will play an individual podcast using Alexa Blueprints, and now I’m going to teach you how to do the same thing. Note: this is accurate as of April 2019, but things change quickly on the Internet, so I have no idea if it will work the same for you whenever you’re reading this.
Step 1: Amazon Account
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for a free Amazon Developer account. To do that, go to: https://developer.amazon.com/alexa/console/ask
Click on “sign in” in the upper right, and then create an account (or log in if you have one already). It’s fairly straightforward, so just complete the form, agree to the terms, and you’ll have an account you can use for this. If you have an Amazon account that you use to buy things and/or is tied to an Alexa device, I recommend using that e-mail address for this account. It will make testing later on easier.
Once you’re in, try that link again, and you should see the Alexa Developers Console that will look sort of like the below screenshot (yours won’t have any skills in it yet, though)
That big blue button will let you create a skill. But don’t press it. That’s not what we’re going to do. Instead, you should go here: https://blueprints.amazon.com
Step 2: Blueprints
You should still be signed in to Amazon so that it recognizes who you are, but if not, sign in to your developers account.
Scroll down to the “Communities & Organizations” section and select “University”. That’s right, your podcast where you drink beer and play D&D will be using something built for distributing lectures given by PhDs.
On this screen, press the button that says “Make Your Own” and you’re going to be walked through adding your podcast.
Enter the address of your RSS feed. This is something you can find at your podcast host, and will look something like this: https://rss.art19.com/the-night-time-show
You’ll note that if you click that link, it shows you the XML data that makes up the podcast feed. That’s what you want to see here. Not an iTunes link, website address, or anything else. It has to be the RSS feed for the podcast itself. So find whatever the RSS feed address is for your show, enter it in the box, and press the button labeled “Next: Experience”.
If there are any errors or if you’ve entered it incorrectly, you won’t be able to go on to the next step.
On this screen, you’ll enter a message that Alexa will say every time someone uses your skill. I recommend using something that identifies your show by name (so they’ll instantly get feedback that Alexa’s playing what they asked her to.) For one of my podcasts I have Alexa say, “You’re listening to The Night Time Show” and “Welcome back to The Night Time Show.” If you have weird characters or want her to say something that’s not just normal English words, then try spelling it out phonetically. When you’re ready, click the button that says “Next: Name”
Enter the name for your skill on this screen. I suggest using the name of your podcast. Click the button that says “Next: Create Skill” and it will generate a skill for you.
Step 3: Publishing
You’ll see a link in the sidebar on this screen that says “Publish to Skills Store”. Click it, and you’ll get to enter details for how you want it to appear in the Amazon Skills Store.
On this next screen you can enter an opening phrase for your skill. This is what someone will say to get their Alexa device to start playing your show, so I suggest you use the name of your podcast here. As it says on this screen, once your skill is published, you can’t change this phrase, so make sure it’s what you want to use. You also can enter a Skill Store Name, which should be a term you want someone to be able to type in and have your show pop up. Enter a name to be used as the creator of the skill, then press the button that says “Next: Details”
On this screen you’ll choose a category for your skill, enter any keywords (I suggest you add “podcast” to this list), add a short description, and write a long description for your skill. I suggest leaving the text that is pre-populated that tells uses the commands they can use with the skill, but adding some more details about your show to the box. You can also upload an image to use for the skill, or create an icon using the icon builder. I suggest uploading artwork that has your show’s logo on it. It has to be square, but will appear roughly in a circle, so make sure your image accounts for that fact. When ready, click the button that says “Next: Policy”
Answer the questions on this screen about COPA and advertisement, and enter a link to any terms and conditions you may have (this is optional, and I don’t have onr for any of my skills). Click the button that says “Next: Review”
Make sure all the data is correct on this screen. Go back and make any changes you might have, or if it’s ready to go, press the “Publish to Store” button. Amazon says it’ll take a few days to approve it, but they’ve approved the ones I’ve set up faster than that. You’ll get an e-mail from them when it’s ready to use.
Step 4: Using the Skill
Now you can tell listeners to your podcast that they can add your skill to their Alexa device to listen to your show. They can view the Alexa skills store through the Alexa app or Amazon website, and they should look for the name you entered back in Step 3.
When viewing its details there will be a button they need to press that says “Enable”, and at that point they can just say, “Alexa, open [Insert Podcast Name Here]” and your show will start playing.
If you have any questions, leave me a comment below or look me up on social media, and I’ll answer as best I can. If this was helpful, I hope you’ll consider giving my two podcasts a listen- there’s The Night Time Show, which is a fun interview show where we talk to actors, musicians, writers, and other artists. And I also have Juror Number 8, which is a limited run show where I tell my friend all of the details about the trial of a man who murdered and dismembered his mother that I was a member of the jury for.