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Amazon just made it a little bit easier for Alexa Skills to make money

Amazon's newest developer tools aim to simplify in-skill purchases. Here's what that means for you.

Aaron Robinson/CNET

Amazon says that the number of Alexa skills is now up over 70,000, and a growing number of those skills have started adding in optional, "in-skill purchases" as a means of monetization. Now, Amazon's newest developer tools seek to make it easier for the creators of those skills to do just that.

Specifically, developers can now add in-skill purchases to their Alexa skills directly via the Alexa Developer Console, complete with standardized, step-by-step instructions. Before, developers needed to handcraft their own code for in-skill purchases via command-line interface. The new tools make it so developers can essentially just check a few boxes and be done with it, instead.

Amazon currently lets developers offer three types of in-skill purchases, as outlined here.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

"Now, you can monetize and publish your skills all in one place, further simplifying the process to build a skill with ISP (in-skill purchases) and empowering you to create delightful, premium experiences for Alexa customers to enjoy," reads Amazon's blog post announcing the tools.

The obvious, practical impact for Alexa users is that you shouldn't be surprised to start seeing the option for in-skill purchases popping up in more of your Alexa skills. Just last week at the Voicefirst.FM Alexa Conference in Chattanooga, Tn, Paul Cutsinger, an Amazon Alexa exec who handles developer education and outreach, made it clear that Amazon intends to help developers make more money in 2019.

"It's important to us that you guys make lots of money, because that'll help you continue to create better content and better experiences for our users," Cutsinger told a crowd of about 150 developers during his keynote address.    

Cutsinger's presentation went on to run through the different ways developers make money by making Alexa skills, including developer rewards from Amazon itself meant to incentivize new ideas. 

As for in-skill purchases, Cutsinger pointed to success stories like the weather skill Deep Sky, which reports that roughly half of users who were offered a free trial of the premium version of the skill opted to give it a shot. The creators of the Escape the Airplane voice game add that 34 percent of users who were offered a premium hint after getting stuck decided to buy one.

Amazon's FAQ page says that developers earn 70 percent of the revenue from in-skill purchases. Parents can restrict Alexa voice purchases with a custom PIN code, or by using Alexa's voice recognition feature (here's how). It's also worth pointing out that kids' skills aren't eligible for in-skill purchases. Customers who are concerned about an accidental purchase can contact Amazon Customer Support to request a refund.

On its in-skill purchases overview page, Amazon notes that only skills published in the US Alexa Skill Store can currently offer in-skill purchases, though the company also says that it plans to expand in-skill purchase capabilities to additional countries soon.

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