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Using Alexa To Listen To VPR Streams, Podcasts And News

Sara Simon
Amazon Tap in the VPR newsroom

In recent months we’ve heard from more people using Alexa and similar "smart speakers" to listen to Vermont Public Radio. We're using this post to give you the latest information along with tips for the easiest ways to use Alexa to hear the latest VPR news, music and podcasts.

Update 10/18/17 - Tips For Using VPR With Alexa

Here's a quick list of the easiest commands for listening to the VPR live streams, podcasts and news. We try to keep this updated, but if you have feedback, please let us know.

To play the live stream of Vermont Public Radio:

  • Say “Alexa, play NPR.” When you ask Alexa to "play NPR," anywhere in the country, she will find your local member station and stream their live broadcast via TuneIn.
  • Enable the VPR Alexa Skill and say "Alexa, play Vermont Public Radio."

To play the live stream of VPR Classical:

  • Say "Alexa, play VPR Classical" or "Alexa, play VPR Classical on TuneIn.
  • If you know the call letters of your local frequency, say “Alexa, play WVPS” or “Alexa, play WNCH.”
  • Enable the VPR Skill and say "Alexa, open Vermont Public Radio and play VPR Classical."

To hear the latest newscast from VPR and NPR:

  • Add VPR Latest News and NPR Hourly News Summary to your Flash Briefing in your Alexa Skills, then say “Alexa, give me my Flash Briefing,” or “Tell me the news.” The Flash Briefing is Alexa's buffet of quick news updates from popular broadcasters of your choosing.
  • Enable the VPR Skill and say "Alexa, open Vermont Public Radio and play the latest News."

To hear the latest Eye On The Sky, Vermont Edition or Brave Little State

  • Enable the VPR Skill and say "Alexa, open Vermont Public Radio and play Brave Little State," or Vermont Edition or Eye On The Sky.

To play the streams of VPR Jazz 24 or the VPR Replay Stream

  • Enable the VPR Skill and say "Alexa, open Vermont Public Radio and VPR Replay" or VPR Jazz.

Update 10/18/17 - Fix To The Flash Briefing

We just made a fix to the VPR Latest Newscast in the Flash Briefing. It had been playing several newscasts, it now plays just the latest, as it's supposed to by design. For more about getting the latest news with Alexa, check out this article, search for video tutorials or contact us for help.

Update 5/11/17 - Brave Little State Added To VPR Skill

You can now use Alexa to listen to the latest episode of Brave Little State, where listeners decide what VPR investigates and work with us to find the answers.

The first step is to use the Alexa app or website to add the Vermont Public Radio Skill to your personal set of Alexa Skills. Once enabled, you can just say "Alexa, ask Vermont Public Radio to play Brave Little State" and it will play the latest episode.

To bring up the full set of options, ask Alexa to open the VPR Skill then ask it to "list programs." The current options are:

  • Vermont Public Radio Live Stream
  • VPR Classical Live Stream
  • Latest VPR Newscast
  • Latest Vermont Edition episode
  • Latest Eye On The Sky Forecast
  • Latest Brave Little State episode
  • VPR Jazz Live Stream
  • VPR Replay Stream

We're working to continuously improve the VPR Alexa Skill and ensure you can access VPR where you want, when you want. If you have feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear them.

And for all your Vermont-related questions that Alexa can't answer - like "What Can Be Done About Vermont's Aging Sewer Systems? or "Why Is Vermont So Overwhelmingly White?" - ask Brave Little State.

Update 4/21/17 - VPR Skill Available On Alexa

You can now explore more news and programming from VPR with the Vermont Public Radio Alexa Skill. This is our second Alexa Skill. The first, released on 3/29/17, enables you to add VPR's Latest Newscast to your Flash Briefing. With this new Vermont Public Radio Skill you can ask Alexa to play the live streams of VPR, VPR Classical or Jazz24 as well as listen to the latest Vermont Edition, Newscast or Eye On The Sky forecast.

Follow this link or ask Alexa to "enable Vermont Public Radio."

Update 3/29/17 - VPR Latest Newscast In The Flash Briefing

You can now get local news when you need it the most by adding the VPR Latest Newscast to your Alexa Flash Briefing.

“From the studios of Vermont Public Radio, this is VPR news.” Listeners hear this well-known phrase often, but now Amazon Tap, Echo and Dot users no longer have to wait for this regularly scheduled bit to receive our latest newscast.

To add this feature to your device, use the Alexa app to access your Flash Briefing settings. Once you open your Flash Briefing settings, search for VPR and choose to ‘Enable Skill.’

After you add VPR to your Flash Briefing, simply ask, “Alexa, what’s the news?” and Alexa will assemble the most recent news updates from your chosen sources. It’s a fast, easy way to hear the local news from your favorite VPR announcers like Mitch Wertlieb, Jake Rusnock, Liam Elder-Connors and Annalise Shelmandine.

Stay tuned for more updates. We are working to further personalize Alexa listener experiences and will keep this post updated with the latest features.

Some Background If You're New To This

Over the past decade, rapid developments in smartphones have transformed culture. But now that this technology has moved beyond smartphones and into the fiber of our homes, we’re faced with a burly reminder that radios aren’t the only devices from which to hear VPR news and music.

This reminder comes with the news that a family of little speakers with big brains topped Amazon’s list of best-selling items last year. Sales of the Echo, Dot and Tap shot up nine percent over last year, making 2016 the best ever holiday season for the online retailer. These devices use artificial intelligence to do everything from ordering pizza and locking your front door to much simpler tasks—playing your favorite public radio station.

Ask the device a question and you’ll get an animated and modulated response from Alexa, a cloud of information that continually learns functionality the more you use her. So, what happens when you ask her to play VPR? Although Alexa is intelligent, she doesn’t always respond in exactly the way you might expect. We'll keep this post updated as a guide to help learn and use this.

Do you use an Alexa device, Google Home, Siri or other voice-controlled devices to listen to VPR? Do you have suggestions for how this can be improved? As always, we welcome your feedback.

Jonathan Butler was VPR director of digital strategies until February 2020. He now works at NPR!
Sara Simon was VPR's web developer.
Anna Ste. Marie joined the organization in early 2017 in the Marketing & Engagement department. She got her start as an intern for Vermont Edition while receiving her B.A. in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from St. Michael’s College in 2016. Anna is a lifelong Vermonter, hailing from the Northeast Kingdom. She loves flowers, cats, TikTok, crafts and the juiciest reality TV drama.
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