Publishers eye push notifications in wake of Facebook changes

Now that Facebook is deprioritizing publishers’ posts in the news feed, there’s more urgency for publishers to make direct connections with readers. That means they’re taking push notifications more seriously.

The Wall Street Journal has tripled, to nine, the number of topics that its mobile app users can follow and made it possible to “follow” its writers so users get a push when those authors publish something.

Publishers are making an effort to stand out visually. Gannett’s USA Today grew its referral traffic from pushes by 18 percent by incorporating pictures, video and GIFs into its messages (in a survey Gannett conducted with its app users last year, relevance of content was named as the top motivation for responding to push notifications). The Guardian has played with the font and style of its push notifications. CNN is will begin adding rich media to its push notifications in the second quarter of 2018.

Publishers pay close attention to their app audiences because their response to a story often provides a good signal for how a publisher’s broader audience will react to it. At CNN, for example, the click-through rate on its app push notifications determines whether to move breaking stories to the top of its homepage or write more stories on a developing story.

“They’re optimal for getting an early indication for how a story is playing with your audience,” said S. Mitra Kalita, CNN’s vp of digital programming. “I used to use Facebook metrics like this over five years ago. You’d look at shares over the course of 20 minutes.”

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