AlexaDev Tuesday: Amazon Policy For Ads In Alexa Skills

Finally: there’s an official Amazon policy for ads in Alexa skills. Now it should be much easier for skill devs to figure out what is and isn’t okay with respect to monetization based on in-skill ads.

 

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The new policy is presented in terms of certification guidelines. From the Alexa Skills Kit Policy Testing page:


Policy Examples
The following list shows specific examples that we look out for when evaluating whether a skill can be made available on Alexa. The list is not exhaustive, and the guidelines may change over time as new issues arise. If Amazon determines that your skill contains, facilitates, or promotes content that is prohibited by these policy guidelines, we will reject or suspend the submission and notify you using the e-mail address associated with your developer account.

Your skill will be rejected or suspended if it…{skipping ahead to paragraph 5}

5. Advertising
a. Includes or otherwise surfaces advertising or promotional messaging. There are specific exceptions we will allow:

– Streaming music, streaming radio, podcast, and flash briefing skills may include audio advertisements as long as (1) the advertisements do not use Alexa’s voice or a similar voice, refer to Alexa, or imitate Alexa interactions and (2) the skill does not include more or materially different advertising than is included when the same or similar content is made available outside of Alexa.

– Skills that allow customers to order products or services may include audio messaging promoting those products or services.

– Skills may include audio messaging informing customers of promotional offers or deals in response to specific requests from customers.

– Skills that are specifically designed to promote a product or service may include audio messaging promoting that product or service.

We reserve the right to reject or suspend any skill that includes advertising or promotional messaging we determine is misleading or confusing, results in a poor customer experience, or is otherwise inappropriate.


Okay, But What Does It Mean?
The policy is a little confusing, since it opens with a pretty categorical rejection of advertising, then goes on to name some pretty overt examples of advertising among the bullet list of exceptions.

The policy seems to be saying it’s acceptable to insert ads in audio-driven skills, like streaming music, streaming radio, podcast and flash briefing skills, so long as you follow the rules specified in the first bullet point. This makes sense since much of the content you might want to hook into with such skills may already have embedded advertising.

It comes as news to me that purely promotional skills (e.g., Patron tequila skill) are a type available to independent skill devs at all, but this opens an avenue for devs to offer their services creating skills for brands. Note that last bullet point exception: “Skills that are specifically designed to promote a product or service may include audio messaging promoting that product or service.” In an Alexa Blog post dated 5/19/17, Amazon’s Aaron Tang expands the bullet point a bit:

“Skills that are specifically designed to promote a product or service (e.g., a car wash skill intended to promote that business) may include audio messaging promoting that product or service.”

My reading of the new policy is that for almost every other type of skill (e.g., games, cooking, utilities, calendar, education, lifestyle, smart home, etc.), advertising will not be permitted.

 

What’s A Dev To Do?
Personally, I’m not looking to add any new obstacles to the certification gauntlet so I’m not going to attempt monetizing my skills with advertising. I’ve always felt ads in Alexa skills would be a big turn off to users anyway, so even if the new policy were more lax I doubt I’d go that route.

Rather, since Amazon has started paying royalties on top performing game skills I’m working on some new projects in that category. I understand Amazon’s new royalty payment scheme is a trial basis thing, but I don’t have any reason to think it will go away—so long as it motivates developers to create high quality skills users rave about and can’t get through any other device or medium.

 

But if your skill work is in the audio streaming area, or you want to hang a shingle as a developer of corporate skills, now you’ve got your marching orders.

 

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