Digital Innovation Guest Columns
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How news apps can keep their readers engaged using push notifications

For news apps, strong user engagement rates are hard to achieve. People are no longer devoted to one source — they prefer updates from social media, messengers, and news aggregators. How can editors and news app marketers counteract this and keep their audiences engaged?

A key tactic is through the use of push notifications. As a specialist user engagement and retention platform that has helped upwards of 80,000 businesses, here are our top recommendations for publishers:

Encourage readers to opt-in for push notifications

Push notifications are known to effectively increase user engagement and retention in news apps. Breaking news is considered the most important type of news alert, but media apps are not limited to this format. Publishers can effectively distribute news updates, opinions, and analytical pieces via push notifications.

To get users subscribed to push notifications, a news app has to request opt-in permission. Most publishers turn this requirement to their advantage, introducing a prompt as part of their onboarding flow.

Here is a typical example from RTL info, a Belgian news app. The publisher doesn’t ask for general opt-in permission — they jump straight into specifying user location (screen #1) and the types of news the user would like to be notified about (screen #2). Then the app suggests sending local updates for the detected location, Brussels (screen #3).

Opt for high-speed pushes

The average speed of push delivery is 3K notifications per second. High-speed push technology exceeds this by at least 100x. This means, other things being equal, your news alert will be delivered a lot faster than that of your competitor. Ask your current push notification provider if they support high-speed push notifications or, from the outset, partner with a platform that provides this tech.

Segment your audience

Most media & publishing apps struggle with getting enough clicks on their pushes, according to Pushwoosh statistics. However, news apps can easily improve their positions in two steps:

  1. Apply detailed segmentation based on various criteria: age, country, preferred content topics, subscription plan, content consumption history, etc.
  2. Target notifications based on these criteria and real-time user behavior.

These improvements can boost news notifications CTR by 40% and even 50%, as Pushwoosh clients’ experience shows.

Elaborate the best timing for your news delivery

Breaking news never occur on schedule — however, you can schedule the time when you will notify your audience about them.

There are three things you can do to engage your audience at the right time:

  • Consider users’ time zones
  • Set silent hours when you won’t disturb readers with your alerts
  • A/B test several time frames and formats

Short news earlier in the morning vs. later in the afternoon; morning vs. evening digests; several updates on the same topic one after another vs. replacing an earlier notification with an updated message.

  • Ask your audience about their preferred timing and frequency directly 

Here is how the SmartNews app tackles the issue: early at the onboarding, they suggest their users pick the specific hours when they prefer to receive pushes. This way, the app resolves the problem with unwanted and unclicked notifications, minimizing their opt-outs and maximizing user engagement.

Help users discover more topics and related content in your app

Unless your interface is exactly the same as that of another publication, a user will navigate your app much better if you offer a quick welcome tour. Where can they find local news? Is there an entertainment section? Where are push notification settings? Here is how News Break — the #1 most downloaded news app in the USA in 2020 — explains its design and workflow to its new users.

Which methods will keep your audience engaged?

Once you know the several different ways to engage your news app users, you will be able to:

  • Confidently request opt-in permission for push notifications with a custom prompt to deliver the most relevant news to your readers;
  • Use high-speed pushes and fast-track your editorial process for sending news alerts that have no delay on either the technical or the human side; 
  • Segment your audience and personalize the content you show to your readers. Get the highest push notifications CTR possible and, as a result, enjoy higher user engagement in your news app;
  • Work out the right timing for news delivery: consider time zones and the hours when you should go silent with your pushes. Rely on A/B testing and ask user preferences directly;
  • Support new users in navigating your app with onboarding in-app messages. Promote further reading with notifications on related news topics and editorials. Prevent churn with time- and event-triggered messaging.

As any news editor would argue, content comes first. However, it’s up to your prompt and timely communications to convey the message, engage your readership, and let the voices of your journalists be heard.

Mikhail Yudin
Product Manager, Pushwoosh

Pushwoosh is a customer engagement platform that automates push notifications, in-apps, emails, and multichannel event-triggered communications. Since 2011, Pushwoosh has helped 80,000 businesses from all over the world to boost their user engagement and retention.

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