The Times will embrace Amazon's artificial intelligence helper Alexa as part of its FIFA World Cup coverage, but the media giant sees the solution as more of a "marketing tool" than viable means of content distribution, The Drum reports. Later today, the company will be introducing its Times Sport Alexa skill designed to provide listeners with a glimpse of its World Cup coverage, as well as some supporting features such as trivia blurbs. As is the case with the vast majority of third-party additions to Amazon's AI ecosystem, Times Sport will be an entirely free offering, with the publication seeing it as a growth experiment whose success will likely be measured in new subscriptions it attracts over the course of the next month.
The exact contents of the service will depend on everyday happenings but Patrick Viera's column and Henry Winter's match reports will likely both be promoted through the Alexa skill via excerpts, according to the publisher's sports editor Alex Kay-Jelski. The offering will also serve as a voice-enabled solution for tuning into The Times World Cup Podcast, though it remains to be seen whether users will be able to browse episode history or only listen to the latest one. The Times is among the few major publications that are primarily monetized through subscriptions, which is a business model that it doesn't want to cannibalize in any shape or form, thus having limited options when it comes to promotional initiatives.
The media outlet is approaching the Times Sport skill as a small experiment and hasn't attached any kind of growth or engagement expectations or targets to the project, having said it will evaluate the success of the initiative once the World Cup comes to an end. Amazon has been hard at work promoting its AI ecosystem in recent years but the company still doesn't offer many clear monetization opportunities to developers which has caused some friction between its Alexa unit and its partners in the past.