Hi Joel, you work on two popular Alexa apps: Question of the Day and Three Questions. Are these the only two apps you’ve developed, or just the most popular?JW:
These are the two most popular apps. I created a few others: “Paige One” with news content provided by the Associated Press, and “Trivia Streak” just a few weeks ago. “Paige One” was fun to work on as I built out the framework that I had created with the first few apps. Now that I have that framework in place, I can create many more apps quickly - it’s just a matter of curating the right content. The new “Trivia Streak” just utilizes the same trivia content that I already have and seems to be gaining traction in the UK.MH:
How did you get started building alexa skills?JW:
My regular job is as a data scientist and I run a small company that does predictive analytics for marketing. I thought Alexa would be a great experiment in collecting data - literally asking people to respond to questions. And I love staying on top of the latest technology. Amazon makes it very easy to program Alexa skills. I think I had Alexa responding to my commands within a half hour of my getting started.MH:
Can you talk about what your usage looks like for each of the appsJW:
I have had [Premium Members Only]
“installs” so far. The majority, [Premium Members Only]
, are for the Question of the Day app, which has about [Premium]
daily active users and steadily growing. About [Premium]
% of those daily users are returning users, so retention is fairly strong.MH:
How did you get initial traction for these skills and others? Did you promote them? Amazon? Your Partners?JW:
I didn’t do any promotion. I wrote the initial apps in Jan/Feb of this year and received about [Premium Members Only]
users a day for the first several months. It wasn’t until May, when Amazon began featuring them in the store, that things started taking off. And that’s when the payments began.
I have done a few experiments in order to drive retention. Since I collect the email addresses for a lot of my users (I have about [Premium Members Only]
users with an email attached their user id), I am able to run FaceBook ads for retention. I am also planning on running email campaigns soon.MH:
Can you talk about your development process? Testing is always difficult since there’s no equivalent to testflight. how do you test your skill prior to launching it?JW:
My development process is very agile and experimental. It’s just one step at a time without a big master plan. I will experiment with an idea, like adding points to the games, or allowing users to link their accounts, etc., and just see how things play out. Testing is actually easy: voice conversations are very constrained, so there are only so many ways to foul things up. And now that I have a dialogue framework in place, coding is really simplified. The bigger challenge now is content curation.MH:
Can you share the math of how payments work? i.e., if I get 1000 people to enable my skill, how much will I make? Or does retention matter? Or is it a black box? If it’s a black box, is there information that you can share with our premium members about the relationship between how many users the skill has and how much you make?JW:
It’s a black box. I have attempted to reverse engineer the payments from my usage data (even to the point of running regression analysis) but with little luck. Best as I can tell, the process is something like:
1. Amazon decides how much they are going to pay for each category.
2. Skills in each category are ranked based on their definition of “engagement", which is based on:
a. Number of users
b. Number of “utterances" per user (that is, the number of times a user responds to Alexa within the app). This is perhaps the most important metric. Even if you have a lot of users, if they are not engaging with the app, your payments will be limited.
c. Customer revues.
3. Your skill allocation of the pie is awarded based on your engagement ranking.
4. There seems to be a max that they will pay for any one skill per month: [Premium Members Only]
Thanks Joel! Join Hearing Voices as a premium member to learn more about my conversation with Joel.