ABC News readies push notifications revamp to increase relevancy
September 25, 2013
ABC News' current app
NEW YORK – Two ABC News executives at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference said that the company is experimenting with a new way of sending messages to its readers via a new mobile application, inbox and push alerts.
In the “Bread Crumbs Lead: On the Move from Profiling by Demographics to Profiling by Intent” fireside chat, the execs discussed the challenge of providing consumers with relevant information without bugging them with excessive notifications. Brent Hieggelke, CMO of Urban Airship moderated the session.
“One of the things we try to do every 6 months or so is pull back a bit, get back to our foundations and talk to consumers,” said Peter Roybal, head of mobile products at ABC News Digital Media, New York.
“For years people have been telling us that they want to be the first to know,” he said. “But people also want to catch up. They get overwhelmed very easily. They’re getting hammered by information during the day.
“Push alerts - people like them when they’re relevant but at the same time they can be too frequent, too irrelevant, too promotional, so we think that there’s really an opportunity for a new way to let people stay current.”
In order to balance the two needs of readers, to stay informed but not overloaded, ABC News decided to try out a new system.
The company is rolling out a new app for Android and iPhone this October. The app will still send push alerts to readers, but it will also have an inbox.
With the new system, the news organization will be able to send urgent messages to readers via push notifications and send less time-sensitive messages to them via the new inbox. Readers can check their inboxes on their own time and read stories on their own schedule.
Additionally, the inbox is a more flexible format that will let ABC News send out links to videos in addition to breaking news.
The app will also let readers “star” a story to signify that they are interested in receiving follow up information about the story. Those follow-ups will show up as push alerts on readers’ lock-screens since they have indicated that this is a relevant topic for them.
“Our users love push notifications but they’re starting to feel a little spammy,” said Doug Vance, vice president of product at ABC News Digital Media. “Our users weren’t saying we want less push alerts, they were saying we want them to be more relevant to me.”
Until now, an editorial team would have to evaluate a news story and decide whether or not it was worth sending out a push alert. Forty percent of readers might want to see it, but 60 percent would be annoyed, so the question would be if it was worth it or not.
With the new system, ABC News will be able to revamp the system, hopefully serving relevant information to specific readers.
According to Mr. Roybal, it is all about segmentation. ABC News will have to look at certain demographics and locations to decide whether or not a push notification or an inbox message will be better suited for a story.
With the new app, ABC News is trying to make the overall news experience easier for readers.
Mr. Roybal looked at television for the app's inspiration. The television audience can press a button and have content served directly to them.
ABC News is trying to mirror that experience for phones. The inbox is intended to be an easy way to open an app and have relevant information served to readers immediately.
“I think the inbox has a lot of personal connotations to it, but you also kind of get that there’s stuff coming to you,” Mr. Roybal said. “You don’t have to work for it endlessly. [We tried] to make it feel fun and not another thing that you have to check off to make it through the day.”
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York
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