“ALEXA, read me the Rotherham Advertiser!”
Householders can now fill their rooms with the sounds of the Advertiser's pages after the Rotherham Talking Newspaper launched its services on Amazon Echo’s Alexa — the intelligent voice assistant.
The voice controlled, hands-free speaker can help with a range of tasks, from answering questions to making calls or playing music.
And now Alexa is helping the Rawmarsh-based talking newspaper to “break down barriers” and reduce social isolation by offering its services for free.
“We can now offer our weekly talking newspaper and talking magazine free to anyone who has an Alexa speaker connected to their broadband service,” said Roy Beachill, charity co-ordinator.
The small charity, based at Rosehill Park Hall, has been producing weekly tapes of articles from the Advertiser, plus features like fiction, recipes and quizzes for nearly 40 years.
The recordings have been described as a lifeline among the 350 subscribers, most of whom are over 60.
Recordings — mostly in MP3 or USB form — are sent out to listeners each week using the “articles for the blind” free postal service.
“This is a tremendous service and helps keep costs down,” added Roy (69).
“However, this has always prevented us, due to the extra on cost of postage, from offering the service to others who do not suffer from visual impairment.”
But after the charity joined forces with a national umbrella group, the Rotherham edition is now available every Tuesday on Amazon Echo — two days earlier than postal recipients receive their recordings.
“We linked up with National Talking Newspapers,” said Roy.
“There’s around 50 newspapers already on Amazon Echo and we rent their services for £400 a year.
“All we have to do once we’ve finished our recordings is upload the file to a dropbox and it’s up and running.”
The Rotherham charity has already helped five subscribers get to grips with the service during one-to-one sessions and the charity can send instructions to relatives on how to take advantage of the service.
“It’s being developed to work on Google and Apple’s Siri and we want to get the word out about it to stroke patients and charities for older people,” said Roy.
He added: “We know from feedback from our visually impaired listeners how much the service means to them in keeping in touch with local news.
“Over the years, we have become aware of how the service could bless other members of our community who cannot hold or read a newspaper or magazine due to age or disability.
“In today’s society, social isolation due to age or disability is a real and present problem.
“Alexa, the intelligent speaker, has allowed us to break down barriers.”
To register for the service, contact Rotherham Talking Newspaper on 01709 522429 or email email@example.com.