Radio Prague launches on voice-activated smart device Alexa

Alexa smart speaker, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

From Wednesday Czech Radio is available on Alexa, a voice-activated smart device of the kind that may be seen in most homes in the future. To get Radio Prague’s news, for instance, all you need to do is issue a command and the headlines are playing a few seconds later. I discussed Alexa – which resembles a small round speaker – with Czech Radio new media specialist Adam Javůrek.

Alexa smart speaker,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů
“Alexa is a smart speaker or a smart assistant. So she’s able to talk with you.

“She’s able to answer easy questions like, Who won the last Tour de France?

“You can set up a timer through her. You can create a shopping list.

“She can play music if you want to, though you have to have a Spotify or Amazon Prime Music account.

“And she’s able to play news – and that’s why we are interested in her.”

Alexa isn’t available in Czech and I presume not many people have the device in the Czech Republic. But Czech Radio has just launched on Alexa, including with Radio Prague’s news in English. Why has the station done so?

“We have information that even though she isn’t able to speak Czech, there are a lot of people who are interested in her.

“Hundreds of people every month [in the CR] are buying Alexa.

“Unfortunately we don’t know if they are people who want to listen to news in Czech or if they are Americans living in the Czech Republic.

“We’re not sure about that, so that’s why we launched news in Czech and also in English and German.”

And I guess Czech Radio is looking to the future, to the day when this will be available in Czech and a lot of people will have it?

“Yes. I’m sure about it. We don’t know when it will happen. We don’t know if it will be next year or if it will take three years or so.

“But we are sure this day will come – and we need to be ready.”

In today’s world there are so many demands on people’s time. What does Alexa mean for radio stations, in terms of being able to compete for people’s attention?

Adam Javůrek,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
“She’s definitely stealing the time that people use the radio, or even smartphones.

“Because there is a lot of information you have to look up through your smartphone when you’re looking for something, and now you can just ask Alexa.

“So yes, that’s competition.

“But the first statistics we’ve got are that people using Alexa actually listen more to music and more to audio news.

“So it’s competition for radio receivers but it’s definitely interesting for radio stations.”

You’re an early adopter I’m sure of many things and you’ve been enthusiastic about Alexa for some time. What was it that first grabbed you about it?

“For me it was the feeling that it just works.

“There have been a lot of experiments with devices you can talk to.

“But this is the first time I feel that I’m getting what I want, and that she understands me.”