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In yet another instance of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos mixing his day job with his newspaper, the capital city newspaper said last week it would provide content to Amazon's "Alexa"-based devices, including the Echo, Fire TV, Amazon Tap and Echo Dot. The Post also said last week it has used in-house developed technology to improve the speed of delivery of breaking-news email alerts.

Bezos, who founded the behemoth online store in 1994 and remains its chairman and chief executive, purchased the Post in 2013. Since then, the newspaper has worked in tandem with Amazon on a number of projects, including providing a new news application to the Amazon Fire tablet before it was delivered for the more popular Google Android or Apple iOS devices.

The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated smart home speaker that was originally released to a limited number of consumers in late 2014 and became widely available last June. The $180 device allows a consumer to speak to it and ask for various audio content, including local weather and traffic, as well as newscasts from NPR or music from the Amazon Prime system.

The Echo's technology gained the "Alexa" moniker because the command word for the device is that name. A user might say, "Alexa, tell me the weather," and the Echo will respond. The "Alexa" technology is now also available in Fire TV and two new devices released this week, Amazon Tap (a portable version of the Echo) and Amazon Dot (which provides the technology but allows the user to attach their own speakers).

The Post said it would provide "Flash Briefings," which are "pre-recorded news briefs and segments" that will be created "once a day to start." The paper said Chris Cilliza will write a daily "Flash Briefing" on the latest news and analysis of the 2016 presidential campaign.

"As more and more people use connected devices, we're excited to experiment with this platform and reach as many audiences as we can," said the Post's Joey Marburger. "Delivering news in this format is yet another way we can engage with busy readers who want options."

Also last week, the Post said it had developed new technology that allows it to monitor breaking news alerts delivered by the Post and "nine other major news organizations." The new system, dubbed "BreakFast," groups news alerts from the same topics and ranks how the Post does against its competitors.

"This tool has helped us understand exactly how fast we are compared to the competition, and it's helped us see more clearly which parts of our process work well and which can be improved," said the Post's Eric Rich.

Bezos apparently doesn't hang out at the paper or micromanage news coverage, but he does have ideas. According to a long profile in this week's Fortune magazine, Bezos has twice-monthly phone conversations with the Post management team and twice a year they fly to Seattle, where Bezos lives, for "an afternoon of meetings with Bezos, followed by dinner." Fortune said the billionaire once proposed a feature for the Post web site where a user could pay to have all the vowels removed from a story, while another user could pay to put them back. Post Editor Marty Baron, "wasn't very keen" on the idea, Fortune said.

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Date:Mar 28, 2016
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