In my previous post I took you on my journey to add Amazon’s speech synthesizer Polly to Opinionbypen. I have to admit I did this as an excuse to play with some of the emerging technologies offered by Amazon. Although there were a few minor obstacles along the way, Amazon has made adding speech to your blog incredibly easy. Today we’ll explore my next step, creating an Alexa podcast from Opinionbypen.

True, none of my loyal subscribers have been clamoring to hear an Opinionbypen podcast on Alexa but I’m sure it was only an oversight on your part.

To be clear, I’m not giving instructions on how to add your blog to Alexa. Amazon has made this task incredibly easy with their Blueprints but their lack of experience with WordPress has created a few stumbling blocks. My goal is to share with you some of the problems I encountered and the solutions I used.

First Issue:  As I said earlier, I did not want to rely on Amazon S3 storage. There is a catch here, if you want to add foreign language translation or the ability to add emotional emphasis to your podcast, S3 storage is a requirement. Neither of these were compelling reasons for me but they also require that your podcast’s MP3 file come from a HTTPS server. Fortunately, I converted Opinionbypen to HTTPS several months ago but this issue meant that I could not create a podcast using Instant WordPress. If your site is not HTTPS, you will have to use Amazon’s S3 storage.

Second Issue: This one is more of a personal issue. When you enable podcasts, the app automatically assumes you want to submit your podcast to Apples iTunes iConnect. It’s not that I have anything against iTunes but neither did I feel like sending my podcast to Apple. I found no way to disable this feature.

Third Issue: My third issue was a timing issue and I’m really not sure if I should blame WordPress or Amazon. WordPress allows me to revise my post as many times as I want but when I’m ready for you to see it, I publish it to my site. Publishing only happens once for each post. When that happens, WordPress emails my post to my subscribers and the Amazon app creates a podcast but as I said, that only happens once. When I sign up for Alexa, I have to give the folder containing my podcast. Not a problem, unless the folder is empty. You have to have created one podcast before Alexa will accept your folder address. Certainly easy but here’s the rub, Alexa will only play podcasts created after the skill is created.

When I filled out the Amazon Skill Blueprint for OpinionByPen, I only had one podcast and Alexa kept telling me that my podcast was empty. It was only after I published my second podcast that everything started working. It’s an easy fix but certainly frustrating until you understand what’s going on.

Final Words: Now that you have everything working, you can test your new skill using your Alexa account. If you feel you need more feedback, Amazon allows you to share the skill with friends and family. This turned out to be remarkably easy. Amazon provided me with a link, I sent it to my Mother-in-Law, she clicked on the link and her Alexa was then able to read this post to her.

Having made it this far leaves me with several decisions to make. The first year is unlikely to cost me anything and as long as Amazon’s rates stay the same, future years will probably cost me less than twelve dollars a year. Do I continue to create audio files for each post? Do I follow this to conclusion and publish Opinionbypen to the Alexa public? Would that actually increase my readership or make it easier for any of my subscribers?

The future of this feature is in your hands or should I say in the comments you make.


© 2019, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.