2018 saw Facebook change its newsfeed algorithm, and while the results weren’t as catastrophic as some feared, it did make publishers realise they needed to be building direct relationships with their readers. Publishers today are looking for tools they can use to both increase loyalty and build habits — something push notifications do particularly well. Notifications make a reader more likely to actually open the news app, with one study finding that 58% of respondents opening a news app directly from the notification.
This habit formation aspect of push notifications is key, and something we are exploring further this year in our research into habit forming technology and products. Subscribe to receive our findings along the way, which we also plan to share later this year at the next Digital Growth Summit.
With more and more publishers focusing on reader revenue strategies in 2019, how has this affected push notifications? From our years of experience at Twipe, we know that one of the key ways to grow your digital news products, including your ePaper, is to send a daily push notification to readers. Our research has found that engaging with your readers in the morning through a push notification increases reader activation by 15% throughout the day. Best practices can adapt and evolve over time, so this week we are revisiting our push notification guides to see what’s new in 2019.
Clicking through a push notification isn’t the only way to measure its effectiveness. Research from Marfeel looked at push notification strategies through their positive impact on Subscriber Lifetime Value (SLTV). They found four strategies to follow:
- Go beyond just text: images increase SLTV by approximately 10%
- Increase intensity with engagement: increasing push notification intensity for the most engaged readers can increase SLTV up to 40%
- Invert popularity of articles with level of engagement: the most engaged readers are more open to reading less popular articles, while the least engaged readers are most likely to click notifications that contained only the most popular articles
- Personalise articles in alerts: personalising articles in alerts increase SLTV by approximately 20%
This last point, personalisation, can also help ensure push notifications are actually read. For example, The Wall Street Journal focused on increasing the level of personalisation in push notifications so that while the total volume of alerts have increased, each reader only receives the ones that matter most to them. Since push alerts are moving beyond just breaking news, timing can also be one aspect to experiment with. Marfeel’s research found that the best time to send a push notification is after work, peaking at 9 PM, as this is when people have the most free time. It also found that the optimum number of alerts per day is between 4-8.
Increasingly crowded space, but growing demand as well
Already last year we knew the lockscreen was becoming crowded, but since then the deluge of push notifications has only increased. Research from Columbia Journalism Review’s Pete Brown shows that the weekly average for push notifications increased 16% from last year to 26 per app. Push notifications account for only a small percentage of most publishers’ overall traffic. For USA Today, they drive just 10% of its mobile app opens and 5% of the mobile app’s pageviews.
Still, the good news for publishers is that opt-in rates for push notifications rose 16 percentage points this year, according to Urban Airship. Readers who do enable push notifications are particularly valuable for publishers, as they are often your most engaged, loyal audience. That’s because in order to receive a push notification, a reader must have downloaded the publisher’s app or followed the publisher inside a platform such as Apple News.
A lot of people would consider their push audience their most loyal, their most engaged audience.
Pete Brown, Columbia Journalism Review
Moving beyond breaking news
Successful publishers value push notifications as distinct content, instead of simply a means to an end for bringing readers to an article. That’s why this year we’re seeing more and more publishers moving beyond breaking news in their push alert strategies. This mirrors the growing trend in the industry to move beyond breaking news as a whole, which is why we’re seeing push notifications starting to promote publishers’ strongest journalism and exclusive stories.
Breaking news alerts have also been less effective in driving traffic back to news apps, instead it is editorial or marketing alerts that are more successful. That’s why some publishers are leveraging this by sending follow up push alerts after a breaking news notification with additional analysis or context — this helps rise above the noise.
Specifically for editions, push notifications are crucial for reminding users to read the new edition at a set time each day. For example, the 12 app from Tamedia sends a push to readers at noon alerting readers to the new edition. They found that many readers scroll through the stories once they receive the alert, then later that evening read the full stories that interest them. The push notification has helped turn reading the 12 app into a part of readers’ daily routine – and they know this because when push notification do not get sent, the edition’s download rate plummets. That’s one reason at Twipe we are also working on automated push notifications for our platform, giving readers the top three stories from the new edition.
Ultimately we can only expect competition to increase in the battle for the lockscreen as publishers compete for these loyal, engaged readers.
This article was written by Mary-Katharine Phillips, Media Innovation Analyst at Twipe from 2017 – 2021.