- Amazon debuted a subscription plan for Alexa, the e-commerce giant's voice-activated digital assistant, that will give third-party software developers a way to monetize skills, as applications for Alexa are called. People who already subscribe to Amazon Prime, the $99-a-year membership program that offers free shipping on most products, will be able to subscribe to the Alexa skills at no extra charge, TechCrunch reported.
- The announcement follows Amazon's step earlier this year to let developers earn payments from games skills. The company in August expanded the program to pay developers in categories like education, lifestyle, dining, music, health and productivity.
- Alexa's first subscription skill is Sony Pictures Television;s "Jeopardy!," based on the long-running game show hosted by Alex Trebeck. Prime members who signed up for the skill will receive six additional Double Jeopardy! clues every weekday for free, while non-Prime members can buy a monthly subscription for $1.99.
Amazon has sought to drive a steady and predictable revenue stream with membership fees to its Prime service, and now its Alexa digital assistant is being enlisted to encourage people to sign up for Prime. Alexa users may soon discover that a Prime membership is more appealing with the program's Alexa subscriptions as well as the classic free shipping, music streaming, on-demand video and exclusive content.
The e-commerce company has experience with developing technology platforms, and it recognizes Alexa is growing increasingly appealing to consumers as new skills are added. That could signal that more developers and brands will be motivated to create skills as a way to make money, thus building out Alexa's inventory. Amazon is still working on a revenue-sharing model for developers, Engadget reported.
Amazon introduced the Echo device, which houses Alexa, two years ago as another way to order products from its web store via voice commands. Echo was reminiscent of Amazon's introduction of the Kindle Fire tablet in 2012 to drive sales of books, movies, music and products in its web store. In the early stages of rolling out Alexa, skill monetization was less of a priority for the company. Amazon even shut down the first ad network for Alexa skills by changing its policies.