Push alerts: Useful or annoying?

The Associated Press plans to study push alerts and how to make them more useful for audiences and publishers

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute awarded seven fellowships for the 2019–20 academic year with projects to improve gun violence reporting, expand solutions-based journalism by local TV stations, help large and small newsrooms get the most out of push notifications, customize audio documentaries through voice commands, measure the community impact of online stories and preserve digital content that’s being lost.

For a team of five from The Associated Press, they plan to spend the next eight months looking into the real value of push alert notifications that are bringing news to consumers.

For example, are they meeting consumers’ information needs and wants, and if not, how they can improve, says Virginia Arrigucci, engagement manager for digital services and lead for the fellowship.

Unfortunately, when they went looking for metrics research in this area, they didn’t find much, as pointed out in 2017 research done by Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Guardian Mobile Lab. This led them to pursuing the fellowship. 

About the project

During the fellowship, the team plans to experiment with various alerting features on the AP’s news site and mobile app to test different delivery methods, topics and timing. They will measure various metrics, which may include open, follow and uninstall rates as they study user preferences. As they seek to learn users’ preferences, they will also conduct user research.

The team hopes that the project will not only serve readers better, but also “help publishers better position themselves in the marketplace,” says Arrigucci.

“Push alerts are just one piece of that, but I think the more we can understand about it and understand about consumer preferences, the better off we’ll be in embracing how do we deliver news to people in a way that they value and will be willing to pay for even?”

At the end of the fellowship Arrigucci’s team will create a best-practices guide and host a webinar to share the findings with publishers.

Just one of two push notification projects to keep an eye on

With a desire to help the industry understand how to use push notifications more effectively, RJI also awarded a 2019-20 fellowship to Krystal Knapp, publisher and editor of PlanetPrinceton.com, a hyperlocal site. She will create a guide for small, independent publishers showing why push notifications are a great fit for their local news businesses. Knapp will identify best practices and detail how notifications can fit into an overall strategy for audience development that complements other distribution methods such as email newsletters, social media, instant messaging and voice search tools.

Read about Krystal’s project in an upcoming article on RJIonline.org.

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