How UK Publishers can Master Apple News+

Announced with much fanfare at the Apple Keynote event in March, Apple News+ marked the most significant update to Apple News since its launch in 2015. Initially available only in the US and Canada, News+ adds a paid tier to the news aggregation platform, allowing readers to access digital magazines including Time, Vogue, People, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal for a monthly fee.

News+ comes to the UK this year, and in this post we’ll give UK publishers a tour of the US version of the app, look into how US publishers have approached it and offer guidance on how UK publishers can master the platform.

So what is News+, and why does it matter to publishers?

Apple News is a news aggregation application that comes pre-installed on all modern Apple devices. It attracts 90 million monthly active users who notch up some 5 billion article views each month. It’s a free application, monetised by publishers through display and native advertising, with some support for paywalled publications. In the US and Canada the application includes a new section called News+, presenting “Issues” of content with covers, contents pages and stories, mainly from the print version of a publication. A single monthly subscription of $9.99 opens up access to around 300 titles.

Total subscription revenue is split 50/50 between publishers and Apple, and each publisher’s share is assigned according to article dwell time. Subscriber numbers and revenues are not public, but if News+ were to attract 2 million paying subscribers, split between 500 titles, each receiving 1/500 of total dwell time would receive around £19,980.00 per title per month. Assuming the distribution of dwell time were to follow the 80/20 rule, we would expect the top 20% of publications to receive roughly £79,920.00 per month, whilst the other 80% would expect to receive around £4,995.00 per month. Apple Music has 28 million paid subscribers in the US alone, and Apple will be hoping to replicate that success with News+.

Feedback on the launch has been mixed, with some publishers positive and some sceptical, but for many publishers, Apple News+ offers a new revenue stream, from a new format that also counts towards circulation figures for print. Approaching Apple News+ the wrong way could require significant resource for weak return on investment, but approached with a clear strategy and understanding of how best to monetise this audience, News+ could present a valuable opportunity.

How do readers find News+ stories?

So, as publishers are paid revenue based on dwell time, let's first look at how News+ stories are found.

The “homepage” of Apple News is called the Today Feed. This contains a stream of stories from all manner of publications, curated by Apple editors and the Apple News algorithm, which suggests stories based on a user’s unique interests, favoured publications and browsing history. In the US and Canada, this page begins with free Apple News stories, but a short scroll down introduces News+. News+ articles appear alongside free stories in “Topic” feeds and within suggested stories, but most prominently in a “Featured Issue” area. This leads with a magazine cover (which directs to a contents page) and four key features. This kind of placement is about as valuable as it gets for the publisher - a strong cover and selection of features in this area will notch up significant article views for a publication.

The UK version of Apple News contains a prominent tab in navigation named Spotlight; an area curated by Apple News editors each day. In the US and Canada this tab is replaced with a News+ tab, which allows readers to jump straight into the paid section. This News+ area displays the full catalogue of magazines hidden behind sub-navigation grouped in alphabetical order, by interest or by “featured” status, followed by a curated page of stories split into topic or publication.

Finding a title with sub-navigation tools can be a little fiddly. With no search function at present, a user wishing to find a title beginning with the letter G has to scroll through screen after screen of covers, with each title competing for their attention. They’ll find magazines by interest, too, but all-in-all, finding publications using sub-navigation requires plenty of intent on the user’s part, so readers are much more likely to find content through single stories within curated areas of the app. We’ll talk a little about how to use this to your advantage later in this article.

Outside the app, the Apple News editorial team collaborates to assemble email newsletters that are circulated every week. They consist of five of the week’s top stories and aren’t limited to a single set of sources or topics. Users can share stories with friends through socials and messaging apps, and email links to publications to friends.

The user who navigates to an issue or article is able to follow that title, but only by navigating to the main channel of the publication - this isn’t possible on article pages or even issue contents pages. Following a publication does a few things - it positions the latest issue in a prominent area of the News+ section, it automatically downloads issues when they come out, and it sends a signal to the Apple News algorithm that a user is interested in that publication. This increases the number of stories surfaced to the user as they make their way around the app. It goes without saying that this is a vital action, so we'll look at methods for driving that particular behaviour later in this article.

It’s worth noting that a user who hasn’t subscribed to News+ will meet a paywall prompt whenever they attempt to view a News+ article. Articles are also flagged as paid to free users, but Apple has to be careful about users hitting a paywall too often as it risks affecting Apple News UX, reducing usage. Those who haven’t yet tried News+ will be met with an offer of a free trial, however, so as a publisher, directing followers to your publication in-app could lead to conversion, particularly at launch. Apple hasn't released figures on the number of readers who have continued with News+ following trials, but have stated that "the road to monetization takes some time" and suggested "different trial periods" will be offered.

How are US publications approaching News+?

Publications on News+ are split into two camps - PDF publications that present issues as flat replica versions of their print titles and Apple News Format publications which allow the creation of print-meets-digital layouts optimised for screen, as well as features like animated covers and advertisements that click through.

At launch, around 50% of publications on Apple News were PDFs. Five months in, the majority of titles now appear in Apple News Format. This isn’t a surprise, as PDF publications aren’t indexable within the system, are unlikely to be featured, and offer a weak user experience compared to Apple News Format. 

Apple News Format publications generally present articles in two ways: non-features and features. “Non-features” tend to be presented in basic, repeated templates, whereas “features” tend to live on bespoke designs, which maximise the capabilities of ANF in layout, behaviour and media formats, often designed around the specific material of the article. Some of the best examples of this come from high-circulation titles like National Geographic, GQ, WIRED and Time. Articles such as these are prime candidates to be featured within the app - partly as they offer a wide appeal to readers, but the strength of design plays a big role here. Bespoke features offer the most compelling experience for audiences, which Apple takes very seriously.

Apple made quite a fuss about animated covers, presenting a beautiful selection at the News+ launch, but at present magazines don’t appear to have continued producing these. The use of covers on the Today Feed and within prominent areas of the app means animated covers merit experimentation, but creation can be time-consuming. At FlatPlan we can help realise this with minimal impact to the art team.

Advertising from the print product can be included in Apple News Format. The majority of publishers that have included print ads have simply reproduced a full page ad, occasionally adding a link to the image. The right type of publication - and the right type of advertiser - could take this much further, using animation, video or unique typography, but advertisers may prefer to book digital-style formats to run across both Apple News and News+ channels.

The News+ user interface has been criticised, as some users have reportedly found it confusing. It’s often difficult for the user to understand whether they are viewing a story in News or News+ - a cover, momentarily floating at the bottom of the article, is often the only difference. If a reader has clicked a story in their article feed, the only way to navigate to the full issue is to click this cover, and if they were to swipe right they would be taken to a story from a completely different publication. This presents an issue for publications, as a heavily-trafficked article doesn’t necessarily lead to time spent with the publication as a whole - we have solutions for this, which we’ll outline later in this post. Apple News uses “Recirculation” areas to drive traffic from page to page and publication to publication. News+ doesn’t include this functionality, so most current articles in News+ create a "dead-end" for users at the end of each article. We have solutions for this, too, also outlined below. 

How do publications get content into News+?

Apple News stories tend to arrive to the application through a CMS (at FlatPlan we use an RSS feed, after which we handle conversion and delivery), but the majority of News+ content stems from print publications, which are often not part of a digital workflow. Thankfully, workarounds have been devised for print-only publishers. Some magazines in the US and Canada export from InDesign, manually copy and paste their articles into a placeholder CMS, or use PDF extraction.

Extraction can be complicated in itself, but the interpretation of print elements into Apple News Format is where many conversions fall down. At FlatPlan, we can take care of integrations that deliver content from a CMS or PDF extraction that uses our unique machine learning system to ensure quick and precise conversion. Along with this we have a focus on ensuring that context within the articles to maintain the flow of the given narrative. Creating a News+ publication that retains editorial integrity and clear storytelling creates the best user experience, leading to increased dwell time, so context is key.

What opportunities does News+ offer publishers? What News+ advice do you have?

Mastering the presentation of your print content for Apple News+ is vital. It’s how you build brand recognition and loyalty. Where possible, this should mean more than adding the correct typefaces and colours to a basic template. Bespoke features will make much more visual impact, but a bespoke feel can be created from templates if flexible, well-designed templating is developed.

Columns or smaller features have to be tackled carefully. The majority of publications on Apple News present these in very basic layouts on pages of their own, often lined up side-by-side towards the end of an issue. This can create a frustrating experience for readers, which can lead to them bouncing to another publication, reducing dwell times across further pages in the publication. In many instances we recommend combining shorter pieces, using on-page navigation and strong signposting to lead readers and create a longer, better experience with that type of story.

While stories in News+ are organised into “issues” there is plenty of opportunity to be creative with current content and evergreen content from past issues. Each article in News+ gets its own unique identifier, making it possible to link to past stories or series’ - or even create buckets of content based on theme. Apple News directs readers using a "Recirculation" area but News+ doesn’t offer this functionality, so we recommend creating it as part of your channel build, signposting further reads at the end of features.

FlatPlan includes “footer” functionality that can display branded messages directly below content. We use footers to aid the user’s journey, and as an example, in News+ we’re able to display one type of footer to people arriving to an article within an issue and one type of footer for those arriving to a single article. Those arriving to a single article this way are lost to another publication when swiping right, so we can instead aim to change that behaviour to viewing more from the publication. We'll be using areas like footers to help drive that ever-important action of hitting Follow on a publication too.

For many publications we’ll be using footers in the free version of Apple News to help drive traffic into News+. We’ll do this using contextual messaging directed at readers already engaging with content, offering a strong potential for conversion. In FlatPlan these footers can be updated as often as required, so each new issue can potentially be promoted using covers and information on features. Data from existing channels can be used to help guide editorial decisions on the stories a publication decides to publish in News+, with our team recommending types of story based on metrics like dwell time, article views, shares and reach. Combining this with data from News+ content to inform adjustments can lead to strong performances with News+ audiences.

Carefully monitoring article data and user behaviour in News+ can help drive other decisions around content. If certain types of story show traction with Apple News audiences, they can be amended after going live to include further content that will increase dwell time. Are additional images available from the shoot? Is there a video to be used? Could extra context be added? These additions can be added as part of your Apple News content plan ahead of publishing, but Apple News also allows them to be added after going live. This is particularly useful if you find specific stories are performing well.

By carefully considering content conversion, having a focus on the importance of design, using elements like footers, monitoring data and thinking strategically about how to drive audiences around your own publication it’s possible to build an environment that takes your publication further than others on News+. Where other titles may concentrate on just delivering stories into the app, there are opportunities to create a unique environment in News+ - one that offers a good return on investment.


Apple News Knowledge Base: Everything Publishers Need to Know

Pre-installed on some 1.4 billion Apple devices internationally, Apple News opens up a huge and potentially lucrative audience to media businesses. At FlatPlan, we help publishers drive growth across Apple News and as such we have created the Apple News Knowledge Base. It introduces Apple News to those yet to integrate with the platform, but more importantly it's designed to assist publishers to increase audience growth and maximise the potential of Apple News. Within, we take a look at everything from how Apple News' editors work in tandem with the platform's algorithms, to how analytics work to guides on running ads within the platform.

Apple News Top Stories, July 22

Here's what the Apple News Knowledge Base covers:

Getting Started with Apple News

Getting Started with FlatPlan

Growing

Resources

If you’re still not 100%, why not discover five reasons to get your publication on Apple News? If you’d like to integrate your publication with Apple News with the help of FlatPlan, click here to access the Apple News Knowledge Base and begin your Apple News integration.


Welcoming Kerrang! to Apple News

Kerrang! is one of the most widely-read rock music publications in the world. First published in June 1981, it’s carved out a niche at the heavier end of the spectrum, specialising in hard rock, punk and metal styles. As the biggest selling music weekly in the UK, Kerrang! has welcomed some of the world’s most successful musicians to its pages, from Kurt Cobain to Iron Maiden to Bring Me The Horizon. The print edition exists alongside their hugely popular website, which hosts a great deal of online-only content, like videos from Kerrang!’s event series, The K! Pit. 

Three-Kerrang!-Covers

Kerrang!’s loud, bold branding reflects its niche. Its digital and print editions contrast bold colours with bold personas, and its trademark ‘!’ punctuates not just the logo, but everything the publication covers and stands for. Here’s a title that strives to stay ahead of the curve in a fast-moving young music scene.

Apple lets any publication integrate with Apple News by providing an RSS or Atom feed, as Kerrang! had already done. But this form of integration offers very little presence on the platform - to illustrate, here’s the warning Apple offers when publishers try to do so:

Apple News RSS integration warning message

A full integration by FlatPlan means all stories are created in Apple News Format - which is what we did for Kerrang! This opens them up to Apple News’ analytics platform, allows them to run ads and build an audience, and most importantly allows their stories to be surfaced in the app through Apple News’ algorithm.

Despite the loudness of its branding, it’d be a mistake to assume that Kerrang!’s voice is aggressive, or musically purist. The team cover stories from all points on the rock spectrum, never shying away from the inherent playfulness that comes with rock’s theatricality. A perfect example of what I mean is Kerrang!’s Apple News channel at the time of writing:

Kerrang!'s Apple News channel

Motörhead’s Mikkey Dee Has The Coolest Lawn Mower Of All Time’ alongside ‘Exclusive Stream: Season For Change Are Championing Hong Kong’s Hard Rock Scene’ and ‘Dark Funeral’s Stage Outfits Have Been Stolen’. A funny news story, a rather more serious news story and a feature proudly displaying the brand’s passion for their niche. That’s Kerrang!.

Focusing on one specific niche plays to Kerrang!’s advantage in Apple News. It allows Kerrang! to be a leading Apple News publisher in the world of music, and this authority dictates that its content be suggested alongside other leading music and entertainment publications. See this example, where a Kerrang! article was recommended beneath a Billboard story:

Kerrang! as suggested content below Billboard in Apple News

How did we ensure Kerrang!’s goals were met?

Considering Kerrang! is a niche publication, the team’s goals were clear: to depict and maintain the integrity of their inimitable brand as strongly as possible. Kerrang! wanted us to help them carve out their own niche within Apple News; an extension of that which the publication has spent decades calling home.

The focus of Kerrang! makes for a loyal and devoted audience that dwarfs those of competitors. Kerrang! has been featured by Apple News’ editors since its FlatPlan integration on May 9th, and has sustained high numbers of unique users per month since integration. This illustrates the brand dedication of Kerrang!’s readers; itself the reason we ensured that the Apple News channel remained totally faithful to the brand. Here’s a desktop/iPad story:

Kerrang! Apple News story on desktop

Here’s that same story on iPhone:

Kerrang! Apple News story on iPhone

Kerrang! is well on their way to creating a strong, valuable audience on Apple News. The team continues to reach new audiences, who are exposed both to the brand and to the ads they traffic on the platform. What’s more, the users who followed Kerrang!’s initial RSS feed were carried over into their FlatPlan channel, giving the publication a neat head start on Apple News. Our knowledge of Apple News allowed Kerrang! to turn a default integration into a full Apple News Format integration that fires on all cylinders, meeting a new audience of music lovers on Apple devices with a beautifully branded channel that showcases their great content.

But don't just take our word for it. Here's a quote from Luke Morton, Kerrang!'s Digital Editor:

At Kerrang! we’re always looking for new and exciting ways to deliver our content to a wider audience, and within a short space of time we’ve seen a huge uptake on Apple News. Mathematics understand our audience and how to make Kerrang! work on different platforms. The team made our move onto Apple News really easy, handling all the tech development work, while we focused on providing the best stories for our audience. Working together, our Apple News audience has rocketed in the first two months and it’s still continuing to grow.

Welcome to Apple News, Kerrang!

If you'd like us to help integrate your publication with Apple News, click here.


Facebook News Feed's Optimal Post Rate

What is the Optimal Facebook Post Rate for Publishers?

If you’re in our industry, you’ll doubtless have spent the past couple years trying to avoid an endless barrage of gloomy predictions concerning Facebook’s ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm. More specifically, the ways it favours surfacing almost everything except publisher content in users’ timelines.

And yet, paradoxically, a recent Digiday survey indicates that with no alternatives of similar stature, 70% of publishers contend that Facebook still delivers the best content reach of all platforms.

Which platform provides the greatest reach for paid or promoted campaignsEven for unpaid content circulated organically, 45% of publishers agreed that Facebook was still top dog.

Which platform provides the greatest reach for unpaid posted content

So we sat down with our analyst Barney Perkins to work out how specifically to use the platform to your advantage.

Buffer, the social media management platform, have found that posting five times a day maximises post engagement. Read more about that here. However, we have decided to focus our investigation on the metrics most easily monetised - reach and sessions referred to the website.

Since the algorithm changes, Facebook’s official suggestion is that post rate should not have an effect on reach. This is because the way content is allocated to a user’s news feed depends on relevance.

“Post frequently - Don't worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.” - Facebook

Even if this is true, post rate might still influence the visibility of a publication's content by diluting its average relevance and/or increasing the competition in users’ News Feeds - from the publication and from competitors.

The below analysis looks at the daily total reach (taken from Facebook Insights) and number of posts of a publication’s Facebook page (from Social Insider). It also displays the number of sessions referred to the publication’s website (from Google Analytics). Though there is some ambiguity about whether reach or sessions are more valuable metrics, both are given equal preference.

By conducting a simple linear regression of both reach and sessions on the number of daily posts, we found that there was indeed a negative correlation between post rate and reach, as well as a positive correlation between post rate and the number of sessions.

Model 1: Reach

Aggregated graph of a publication's Reach to Posts Per Day

Model 2: Sessions

Aggregated graph of a publication's Sessions to Posts Per DayBy aggregating the above graphs, we found that the optimal number of Facebook posts per day was 11. But, make some considerations here. Firstly, the model specification is not a perfect fit of the data. In other words, it’s unlikely that had the publication started posting 40 times a day, there would be <0 reach, indicated by the red line:

Aggregated graph of a publication's users to posts per dayOne model we experimented with suggested an optimal post rate of 16 posts per day but behaved very strangely in the extremes. As total followers increased the optimal number of posts would drop down to <1 with an absurdly high expected reach.

In conclusion, the model we’ve focussed on here suggests that publications should aim to post to Facebook 11 times per day, with an exception for content that might have a considerably broad appeal. Perhaps questions of optimum post rate are also questions of what content is most relevant to the highest number of the publication’s followers.


Welcoming The Face to Apple News

After months of hard work by a world-class editorial team, iconic British title The Face recently relaunched with the help of Mathematics. As the project progressed we discussed integration with Apple News and the team’s desired outcomes from their Apple News channel. We were acutely aware that here was a publication described by The New York Times as ‘a magazine that changed culture’, so with the weight of a great reputation bearing down, we were careful not to compromise The Face’s iconic brand. So, we designed an Apple News channel to communicate The Face’s position at the vanguard of British youth culture, harnessing the exposure Apple News offers by surfacing stories to users based around interests and browsing behaviours.

What did The Face require?

The Face aims to circumvent “feed culture” - they don't have a Facebook page and instead of posting quickfire articles regularly they deliver a small amount of content to a consistently high standard. This bold approach requires building loyal audiences that come to The Face through quality platforms like Apple News.

The Face’s focus is on youth culture, but one needn’t be a young person to enjoy its content. The team covers such a breadth of culture that any reader is able to quickly find an article pertaining to their interests. Unlike other publications of the same genre, The Face was relaunched as an already-influential brand. As such, its deeply-ingrained principles were well known, and the first task for us at Mathematics was assuring that they were never compromised.

Music, fashion, film and art are the areas most widely reported on by The Face, though the publication’s remit extends beyond the creative industries. For instance, here’s the piece leading their Apple News channel at the time of writing:

America's Scariest Motel story on The Face's Apple News Channel BORDERThis plays to The Face’s advantage in Apple News. The platform’s algorithm works to learn a person's interests, and its UI surfaces stories of interest to that person. This, coupled with the variety of its content, broadens The Face’s opportunities to appear as a ‘Related Story’ suggestion below content from huge publishers of all types. Content will also appear in a person's personalised news feed, based either on context or personal taste.

The editorial team had to work doubly hard to launch with heaps of content worthy of The Face’s reputation;  the last thing they needed in the planning and development stages was more work. Therefore, it was essential that Apple News integration was as simple and as smooth as possible without interfering with the team’s hectic schedules:

"We worked on setting up The Face on Apple News at the same time we were launching the website, so we needed experts to handle the integration without draining our resource at such a critical time. Because the Mathematics team have so much experience and insight with Apple News, we completely trusted them to lead the project, which they did brilliantly. They were able to handle all the tech work, while also translating our overall design identity to work on the platform." - Bridget Mills-Powell, Digital Director

Naturally, a publication so devoted to style has to appear elegant in all channels. Our FlatPlan integration system offers The Face the total control over the look and feel they require, in turn allowing them to maintain the integrity of their brand however they see fit.

How did we ensure The Face’s goals were met?

We began by considering how Apple News can help meet The Face’s overall goals. Then, we offered their team our hard-earned insights into how best to approach growth with the platform. These conversations revolved around the various types of content The Face publishes. On its site, The Face hosts audio and video content, and it was paramount that these formats be seamlessly incorporated into the publication’s Apple News channel. As such, The Face channel on Apple News contains more audio than any other channel we've seen - an exciting new addition to the platform.

Casey Spooner audio excerpt on theface.com
Casey Spooner audio excerpt on theface.com

Unique to FlatPlan is the ability to add custom footers below each article so we added a footer to direct their audience to The Face newsletter. This helps them own their audience, and direct them to wherever The Face’s goals must be met:

The Face's custom Apple News footerAll the editorial team need to do to surface stories on Apple News is publish a story to their site, and FlatPlan automatically maps content according to category, so stories are automatically grouped into the relevant section with The Face’s Apple News channel. We designed page templates to perfectly replicate The Face’s look and feel, and built them to be effective across mobile, tablet and desktop. This assures that The Face’s content portrays their iconic branding, irrespective of platform. Here’s a desktop Apple News story:

The Face's Skepta review on Apple News for desktopHere’s the same story on Apple News for mobile:

The Face's Skepta review on Apple News for mobileAnd here it is for tablet:

The Face's Skepta review on iPad interfaceFrom a technical perspective Apple News integration usually requires CMS-level development and heaps of QA testing but FlatPlan’s simplicity meant that Mills-Powell was able to say: “To be honest, the integration was so easy on our resource I barely knew it was going on”.

Ideal! Our knowledge of Apple News allowed The Face to make their start with a focus on building a loyal audience. It’s early days, but the team have already earned some great results.

Welcome to Apple News, The Face!

If you'd like us to help integrate your publication with Apple News, click here.


News aggregator apps iPad interface and newspaper

For Publishers: The RSS News Aggregators You Need To Know

The media industry has certainly seen some change over the last few years. Digital distribution has shifted from newsletters to socials to messaging apps, with many consumers now shifting towards news aggregation platforms - apps and websites dedicated to the discovery of short to long-form content, all promising the perfect user experience.

Tech giants like Google and startups like Flipboard are playing an increasingly powerful role in the media, so building out a strong strategy to platform distribution is key. Central to this is choosing the right aggregators to distribute stories to, so with that in mind we’ve rounded up the most important aggregators below. Each can be integrated by simply providing an RSS feed from your website (a standard feature on almost all CMS's).

Flipboard

 

Flipboard Mobile User Interface

Flipboard presents news and feature content from digital publications, photo sharing platforms and blogs in a magazine-influenced format which allows users to ‘flip’ through stories easily. Verified as the fourth highest traffic driver on mobile and tablet for sites in the parse.ly network, Flipboard’s interface was tailored to engage users with a high intent to consume editorial content, which tends to drive good quality traffic back to publication websites. Flipboard monetises through advertising in-app, with ad units and native stories sitting alongside editorial content.

Top 15 traffic sources to parse.ly

Users are invited to indicate their interests so that Flipboard can group content accordingly. They may also save stories into their own Flipboard ‘magazines’ and access stories liked and read by friends, as the app sources content from Facebook and Twitter.

With 145 million monthly users as of August 2018, Flipboard requires a standard RSS feed to ingest publisher content, but with a few modifications, publishers can attract more visibility on the platform. For a more detailed exploration into why a Flipboard integration is worth your while, take a look at our publishers’ guide to the platform.

Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Feedly

 

Feedly Desktop User Interface

Feedly allows users to organise news publishers’ RSS feeds, combining them with social media feeds, and funnelling them to suggest content by interest. Stories can be arranged at the reader's discretion, and the app’s minimalist presentation is ‘optimised for productivity’. Users can search for articles of interest, save them to their ‘Read Later’ tab (which is also compatible with Evernote, Pocket and Instapaper), share articles to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and discover new voices on their ‘Discover’ page.

Publishers can decide whether to showcase content through a full feed (full text and multimedia content consumed within the app) or a partial feed (only showing limited text, inviting readers to browse the full story on your website). How you do this depends on your goals as a publisher - the full feed will offer a better experience to readers in-app which could increase brand affinity and open up opportunity to monetise through articles in-feed, whereas a truncated feed offers referral traffic to your website.

Compatibility: iOS 6.0 or later (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), Android 2.3 or later, browser
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Apple News

 

Apple News Desktop App User Interface

Apple News is a news aggregator developed by - you guessed it - Apple, for its iOS, watchOS and macOS operating systems. Users have stories recommended by Apple News’ algorithm according to how in-app habits portray their interests, but the platform also has a human editorial team. It’s their job to populate the app’s Top Stories and Editors’ Picks pages with eye-catching, well written articles.

Apple News is now available on around 1.4 billion devices around the world, and according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, some 5 billion articles are read on the app each month. As traffic continues to grow it’s clear that a solid audience is available in the platform.

Some 90 million users are on the app every month and its prominence, user experience and clever use of notifications make it the primary news and content source for many. Its algorithms keep access to this audience democratic and not restricted to top-tier publications. A great example of this is the recirculation area below stories, that regularly recommends articles from small publications directly below content from internationally-renowned news brands.

Full integration requires publishers to deliver stories in Apple News Format, which FlatPlan is able to achieve through an RSS feed.

For more detailed arguments in favour of Apple News integration, see this piece we recently published on our site. Once you’ve integrated, you may find our guide to tracking your progress with the platform useful.

Compatibility: iOS, watchOS and macOS
Price: free with Apple devices
Click here to integrate

Google News

 

Google News Mobile User Interface

Google News is Google’s aggregation platform, which ingests publishers’ content via RSS or Atom feeds. It’s currently watching in excess of 65,000 news sources, making it one of the most far-reaching and populous news aggregators available today. Like its competitors, Google News analyses the tastes and behaviours of users to serve them content catered to their unique interests. It differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a timeline of the development of a news story built on content from different publishers. This allows users to track the progress of significant events over time. With over 60 nation-specific editions, Google News is considered one of the finest news aggregators on the market today.

Publishers should know that Google News’ algorithms “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence - the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.” In other words, Google News stories feature prominent publisher branding and private monetisation opportunities for publishers, including advertising and streamlined subscription sales. Find out more about editorial control and monetisation in Google’s Publisher Center.

In conclusion, Google News is favoured by publishers as it gives them a fair chance at getting their content noticed, getting paid, and suppressing misinformation.

Compatibility: iOS, Android and Desktop
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Kinzen

 

Kinzen Mobile User Interface

Kinzen is a news aggregation platform that utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That’s what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see. Kinzen hopes to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.” This occurs as users can respond positively or negatively to news that appears in Kinzen’s topic channels. Also, users can integrate their Twitter feeds, and the algorithm will watch topics they follow.

Unlike other aggregation platforms, Kinzen claim they don’t “rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking. We offer an empowering personal news routine based on the best intentions of members rather than empty clicks, likes or hearts.”

If you’re a publisher, you might rightly wonder why you should spend time integrating with an app that charges users for content you already provide for free. The value of Kinzen is in how it creates a news routine uniquely aligned to the daily needs of its users. This creates enormous value for the app itself, which could lead to regular usage, and potentially, a new swathe of returning visitors to your content.

As for generating revenue for your publication, Kinzen make the following claim on their site:

We do not rely on advertising. In the Kinzen app, we do recommend publisher content that contains advertising, but take no cut from the revenue. Instead, we are actively working with publishers big and small to develop revenue models based on direct support from members.

For more information on Kinzen, please refer to this piece, in which we have a chat with CEO and co-founder Mark Little.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: Limited range of channels and controls for free, then €/$5 per month or €/$49.99 per year for premium features
Click here to integrate

Inoreader

 

Inoreader Mobile User Interface

New on the scene but billed as a competitor to Flipboard, Inoreader is already worth considering working with. Especially when publishers consider the benefits it offers a user that other platforms don’t the same benefits which we expect will see it become a major player. Conveniently, Inoreader has a night mode so users can read content in the dark without straining their eyes. Content can even be exported and sent to friends who don’t use the app. Inoreader, it seems, thought of everything!

Inoreader is RSS-friendly for browsers and devices that run iOS and Android. Fans of Flipboard will find plenty to love in this aggregator app. The ‘Dive’ feature divides content according to the topic, allowing users to build their own feeds based on what they want to see. They’re also able to save content they won’t have time to read until later. All this happens with visual components, usually images, the centerpiece of each listed story. This decision makes Inoreader intuitive and pleasant to work with.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free
Click here for more information

SmartNews

 

SmartNews Mobile User Interface

The first click on a SmartNews article always brings the user to the publisher’s site. Publishers may also place advertising in SmartNews’ dedicated platform SmartView, and keep 100% of the revenue. Partner publishers are granted access to SmartNews Insights, the platform’s own online dashboard providing in-depth analysis on traffic, social sharing and key content metrics.

In addition to its intuitive channels such as Top News, Politics and Sport, and its publisher hubs for individual titles, SmartNews boasts its unique Channel Plus feature. Channel Plus allows users to add additional tabs dedicated specifically to content from their favorite sources, giving publishers another way to engage their audience through SmartNews’ simple user interface.

Last Summer, announced that it has reached more than 10 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan, and with a 200% user increase year-on-year in the US since its 2014 launch in the country, this user base looks set to increase exponentially.

For full specifications of RSS integration, click here.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Pocket

 

Pocket Mobile and Desktop User Interfaces

Crucially, Pocket differentiates itself by prioritising ‘Save For Later’, a feature that allows users to read content in Pocket offline. As such, Pocket functions as an aggregator run by the user.

Pocket prides itself on making a virtue of long-read material. Founder Nate Weiner told Bloomberg that “Sharing something with a crazy headline isn’t going to make it prominent in Pocket. Our platform just isn’t set up that way. It’s a lot slower”. In 2019, Pocket and its 30 million strong user base were bought by Mozilla, whose Firefox browser now features a prominent Pocket save-for-later button at the top of the window by default. Since this Firefox integration, Pocket has sent publishers in parse.ly’s network 75% more traffic.

Pocket’s Pocket For Publishers dashboard is a suite of free features that help publishers get the most from the app. Trends is an intuitive set of analytics tools that allow publishers to track their content’s progress in the app, Custom Messages allows publishers to create original content that appears whenever an article is saved to Pocket from their site, and Integration allows publishers to add a Pocket button to their own sites and apps, making saving content to Pocket as simple as possible.

Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop
Price: free basic version, paid subscriptions, starting at $4.99 per month, cut out ads and boost storage space
Click here to integrate

AP News

 

AP News iPad and Mobile User Interface

The Associated Press’ news aggregator app places an emphasis on local, providing users with breaking news from the Associated Press and hundreds of trusted local sources. Its interface may not be as glamorous as some others on this list, but with good reason: it’s an excellent news source for users who want plain facts laid bare.

Local publishers should take note. Like Apple News, the AP News app aims to spotlight local publishers’ coverage of local stories that go national, as opposed to that of the nation’s biggest news titles. The app seamlessly transitions these stories to publishers’ own sites, boosting traffic.

Users can customise their news feeds to follow specific topics and publishers as they appear in developing stories. Users may also enable push notifications to receive real-time updates from the app, another booster of traffic for publishers. These updates can now also be shared through Apple Watch.

Compatability: iOS, WatchOS, Android
Price: free
Click here for more information

Microsoft News

 

Microsoft News Mobile User Interface

No list of news aggregators would be complete without the inclusion of Microsoft News, formerly MSN, launched in its current iteration in 2018. The coinciding announcement said: “We work with more than a thousand premium publishers and more than 3,000 brands in all major global markets – like USA Today, The New York Times, FOX News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, BBC News, Kyodo News, and many more – to aggregate the best news, videos, photos and other content and deliver it, for free, to people all over the world.”

One of the biggest benefits of the platform for publishers is its curation process. Like Apple News, Microsoft News enlists a combination of artificial intelligence and human editorial curation to surface great content. Currently, Microsoft has in excess of 800 editors working in 50 locations worldwide, to ensure the accuracy of local reportage. Every day, Microsoft News receives around 100,000 pieces of content from its publishing partners. Its AI then scans the content to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content and potential popularity. It presents it for our editors, who decide what content will receive optimal placement on the app’s core pages, like the Top Stories section.

Rob Bennett, Microsoft News’ editor in chief, said the following:

“We believe that a free, well-funded press is a critical part of our social fabric and are proud to partner with the world’s best news brands, offering a business model that gives people access, at no-cost, to trustworthy news and provides a sustainable source of revenue for publishers. In just the past four years we’ve delivered more than $600 million back to our publishers, enabling them to focus on what they do best: quality journalism.”

So, if you’re a publisher wondering how to boost your chances of getting featured, Microsoft News’ editorial team use the words “diverse, credible and well-rounded” to describe the content they look to promote. Diversity is important to the Microsoft News team, who carefully compose the app’s pages daily to include multiple sides to a story and believe considered opinion pieces help a user to better understand a story.  

Compatibility: Windows 10 or higher, XBox One, Windows 8 mobile or higher
Price: free
Click here to integrate

Other News Aggregation Platforms:

 

 

To clarify, each of these apps can be joined by simply providing an RSS feed. We’ve mainly included apps whose user base is already significantly large as to make it a major player in this industry, and one or two new apps who show enough promise to assure they’ll be in that position in the near future. 


5 Reasons to Get Your Publication on Apple News

It’s fair to say there’s quite a lot of buzz around Apple News. Preloaded onto all modern Apple devices, Apple News is becoming a vital platform for many publishers, but as integration hasn’t been easy to achieve in the past, some publishers have held back from capitalising on this huge new audience.

As the developers behind FlatPlan we've made integration onto the platform as easy as supplying a link to your website, and as we spend every waking moment working with Apple News we thought we'd round up a number of the key reasons you should embrace the platform...

1. The way Apple News delivers content opens up completely new audiences

Open an iPhone, iPad or modern Apple computer and you’re likely to find Apple News preloaded onto the home screen. Some 90 million people are active on the platform each month and its prominence, user experience and clever use of notifications make it the primary news and content source for many.

A couple of key things differentiate Apple News audiences from those of, say, Facebook, Google or Instagram: the intent of the audience, and the way content is surfaced to that audience.

What’s great about this audience is their intent. Where your stories compete against a myriad of images and posts from friends on Facebook or Instagram, users in Apple News are there to read news, or medium to long-form content. This leads to strong average active reading times and makes it a great platform for building loyalty from readers. But it’s how Apple News gets you in front of these audiences that really differentiates it from search or social...

Apple News suggests content by combining human curation with an algorithm. Users can follow publications or interests but where Apple News stands out is how it follows user interests and suggests content from all manner of publications on both the main category pages and articles pages, too.

Let’s say you run a digital publication that covers movies. There’s every chance an article you write about James McAvoy could be featured using Apple’s human curation, or shown to people with an interest in movies, an interest in films that James McAvoy starred in, an interest in similar actors or any number of similar tastes built up in Apple’s algorithm. Apple uses anonymised data through search and internet browsing too, so after a short time the app suggests a very good quality of content to users.

Another key traffic driver is Apple’s algorithm-controlled "recirculation area" below articles. Thanks to this algorithm there’s every possibility that your content could sit directly below a story from an internationally-renowned publisher with a serious readership. For example, here’s a story from the small online football publication Club Call under a BBC piece selected by Apple’s editors as a Top Story:

 

Club Call story below BBC story in Apple News

Want to read more about how Apple News surfaces content? Here’s a deep dive into the app from the New York Times.

2. You can run your own advertising on the platform, or allow Apple to monetise your publication for you

It’s a common misconception that publishers aren’t able to run advertising on Apple News. In fact, the platform allows advertising across the homepage, category pages and all article pages.

Ads can be trafficked through Apple’s Workbench system, but it’s likely you use Google Ad Manager (formerly Doubleclick for Publishers) - Apple now allow you to traffic ads through your existing system if that’s what you use. 100% of revenue from your direct campaigns go straight to the publisher (Apple has no involvement in these deals), but Apple offer two additional revenue opportunities from inventory they sell:

Backfill: Apple sell campaigns for backfill, with publishers receiving 70% of the revenue

Pooled: Publishers earn revenue from ads that appear in between their stories in areas of the app they don’t control, such as the Today feed or in topic areas such as Fashion or Technology. Publishers share 50% of this revenue, allocated based on time spent with each channel’s articles.

Native campaigns can be served into Apple News as well. These can be delivered as part of your standard publishing workflow - your team just need to tick a button to send them to Apple News when they hit publish in their CMS. Here’s an example from the Telegraph - this story appears in the app the same way as a standard story, but with a native flag shown in listings and on the article.

Apple News native story example in The Telegraph's channel

You can direct further traffic to native campaigns with Apple’s Native units. By putting some of your client’s spend into Apple News you can direct Apple’s audience to their stories, tapping into a largely affluent audience with strong intent, in a brand-safe space. Here’s an example of native ads hosted within the app:

A native story in The Telegraph's Apple News channel

3. This new audience can help you spot opportunities on other platforms

Apple News is now available on around 1.4 billion devices around the world, and according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, some 5 billion articles are read on the app each month. As traffic continues to grow it’s clear that a solid audience is available in the platform.

Apple News data is not available within Google Analytics, but within a dashboard of its own, with stats sent optionally by email to team members daily, weekly or monthly.

Graph illustrating Apple News growth
How Shares, Likes and Saves within one of our Apple News channels have been increasing since their integration

New streams of traffic are, of course, always welcome, but how you dig into this data can offer valuable insight into your content on other channels.

Apple’s algorithms can expose stories to readers that haven’t performed well on a publisher website or on socials. By monitoring user behaviour when users visit an article Apple can give more reach to the most compelling content, driving spikes of traffic to stories that might have gone unnoticed elsewhere.

Keeping an eye on these stories open up opportunity to re-try seeding them on-site and on socials - tweaking headlines, images or placements to drive traffic to articles, mirroring the effect from Apple News.

4. Your Apple News channel can drive growth for the rest of the business

Most publishers rely on multiple revenue streams to drive the business with each individual channel working to aid others as much as possible. If approached correctly, Apple News can work to drive value outside of the app, aiding everything from data capture to events to paywall subscriptions.

Here at FlatPlan we bring all manner of publications to Apple News - from fast-moving consumer news publications to titles that operate on freemium models, to B2B industry magazines. Each publication has a set of goals we work to - many of which revolve around building loyal audiences and monetising those audiences.

We offer guidance on how to use Apple News to achieve those goals and tools to help you get there. Here are a couple of examples. Dazed, a consumer style publication wanted to drive Apple News readers to their mailing list. FlatPlan allows them to promote this under every article.

Creative Review's custom Apple News footer

Alternatively, 90Min direct traffic to their main site:

90Min magazine's custom Apple News footer

Publishers can of course link within Apple News articles to external pages they want their audience to see. For instance, Creative Review often link out to RSVP links for the regular events they host.

By creating great content and following our guidance, publishers are able to develop an audience in Apple News and then use tools like FlatPlan’s custom footers to derive value from that audience.

5. You can automate delivery, opening up this new audience without slowing down your team

Integrating with Apple News used to be a complicated process. Publishers would need to build a bespoke system of their own to handle the induction, and they’d need to take care of their own error reporting. FlatPlan takes care of all this heavy-lifting, handling collection, conversion and delivery.

With FlatPlan, feeding content to Apple News is as simple as clicking publish within a CMS. All we require is an RSS feed; a simple output that most CMSs contain by default. We even take care of categorising content and delivering stories to Apple News with an elegant flourish that matches brand designs to a tee. All publishers need to do is what they do best: write and design clear, beautiful digital stories.

FlatPlan helps media businesses get onto Apple News quickly, easily and at the highest quality. To find out how we can help you, click here.


Facebook News Feed Stories Carousel

Facebook Tests a New ‘Swipeable’, Stories-Like News Feed

In its 2018 Q2 earnings announcement, Facebook indicated that their revenue growth could reduce significantly if users continue the trend for focussing the majority of their viewing time on Stories, as opposed to the News Feed. Its share price dropped 20%, destroying $120 billion in the company’s value.

This is because Facebook and Messenger Stories are currently only used by 300 million people a day. An obscenely large number, yet less than 10% of Facebook’s user base. Compared to Instagram, 40% of whose users interact with Stories every day, it’s a relatively insignificant bracket.

With this in mind, Facebook is eager to preempt what’s beginning to look like a shift to Stories. So, the company has begun to experiment with a new carousel-style layout for the News Feed, that would behave in exactly the same way as Stories. The experiment also merges Feeds and Stories into the same stream. Frequent TechCrunch contributor and reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong spotted the prototype for this new Feed in the Android version of Facebook, and screen-captured her findings:

https://twitter.com/wongmjane/status/1117749628340826112

As you can see, in this prototype, when a News Feed post’s header or surrounding space is tapped, users see a full-screen version of the post. From there, they can swipe left to reveal the next piece of content in the carousel, which may be one of four things:

  • Traditional News Feed posts
  • News Feed ads
  • Vertical Stories
  • Vertical Stories ads

Despite swiping to keep the carousel rotating, users are still able to Like, react or comment on Feed posts while in this interface.

Facebook's hybrid News Feed/Stories carousel
Facebook's hybrid News Feed/Stories carousel

If Facebook’s News Feed engagement is in an overall state of decline - many reports suggest it is - and Stories engagement is growing, then it’s implied that users are losing interest in the main News Feed and looking elsewhere.

Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s actively experimenting with this hybrid News Feed/Stories approach, but also noted that it's still in the very early stages of development. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that “We are currently not testing this publicly” as the company must still complete the user research phase before any public experimentation.

As the importance of Facebook's News Feed slowly declines, Stories presents the most pressing area of engagement for publishers that use Facebook. To connect these two areas is to connect the area users are beginning to spend the majority of their time in with the area that, for now, is driving Facebook’s revenue. A canny move on the company’s part, and one it’s worth keeping an eye one.


The Complete Publisher's Guide to Promoting Content Via WhatsApp

The Complete Publisher's Guide To Promoting Content Via WhatsApp

WhatsApp was built for private chatting not public sharing, so using it to share news with users presents a unique set of challenges for publishers. But, a group of publishers have started to undertake WhatsApp marketing strategies to explore what’s possible with the service. A western brand may call this a necessity but still feel distanced from it. But in India, WhatsApp’s most populous market, the narrative of news consumption has unfolded to make a transition to WhatsApp not a calculation, but a natural next step.

It’s a widely-held estimate that in January 2018, Indian WhatsApp user numbers reached 300 million. It may well be even higher than this today. Remarkable, considering WhatsApp has 1.6 billion monthly users internationally. Check the rapid increase in growth rate for Indian WhatsApp users:

Indian WhatsApp User Growth
Source: http://www.businessofapps.com/data/whatsapp-statistics/

User-reported statistics reveal that 82% of Indian internet users are on the app, putting it behind Facebook (89%) and YouTube (93%) only.

Germany’s another area of significant interest. According to Axel Springer’s Hannah Schwär: 94% of young Germans favour [WhatsApp] over other social media apps. Especially in times where it’s really hard to reach a young audience via news apps or Facebook, this is a really interesting channel.’

In the run up to the 2018 German federal elections, Axel Springer attempted to devise a way to engage young voters. Their in-house team created Shotty.

What’s Shotty?

In spite of its catchy name, Shotty is not actually a chatbot. Schwär found that commercially available WhatsApp chatbots didn’t support voice messages, a feature key to Shotty. So yes, the team literally had to manage the community by hand.

Shotty worked on the basis that the editor and host record a bulletin at 5am every morning with a loose, conversational tone. Then, they would distribute it via WhatsApp at 7am. Most users reported feeling too lazy to read much news in the early hours of the morning, so audio fitted into their morning routine seamlessly.

But, Schwär told Medium that without a WhatsApp-supported technical infrastructure it’ll be difficult to scale Shotty up any further. ScoopWhoop is a great example of WhatsApp-supported infrastructure deployed effectively, allowing for indefinite growth.

What’s ScoopWhoop?

Founded in 2013 by six friends from advertising and marketing backgrounds, ScoopWhoop is best considered as India’s answer to sites like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. Co-founder and CEO Sattvik Mishra told Inc42 “We would go through all these sites in the US that had viral content such as Diply.com or Huffington Post or even a Buzzfeed. And we realised that this same culture was being replicated here in India.”

“All our publications around that time, apart from those in mainstream media, were American in nature, talking about their TV shows, their problems, and their issues. And the pop culture that did exist in India was US-focussed. So we decided to do something about it.”

ScoopWhoop’s WhatsApp service merely requires a user to click a button and send the automatically added ScoopWhoop contact a message, and they will begin to receive daily news updates via WhatsApp. The service is automated using MessengerPeople (then known as WhatsBroadcast); an identical setup to I AM POP, which we’ve covered in the past. It works similarly to The Quint’s WhatsApp chatbot.

What’s The Quint?

The Quint is an English and Hindi language news site founded by Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur. Initially, they used WhatsApp Business to distribute content with their readers. But the system restricted them to manually updating multiple 256-member WhatsApp groups, rather than one all-encompassing list. The response was overwhelming, and they quickly began to look into more efficient ways of distributing their content via WhatsApp.

Like ScoopWhoop, The Quint decided to experiment with MessengerPeople. Now, all a reader had to do was send the word ‘Start’ to the WhatsApp window, and they’d begin receiving daily news bulletins. Here’s how they look.

Bloomberg Quint's WhatsApp MessengerPeople Service
Source: https://www.messengerpeople.com/chatbots-what-is-a-whatsapp-bot-actually/

At first, The Quint tried MessengerPeople through the BloombergQuint branch of the publication, as the content is niche; stock updates, business news, etc. The user base grew rapidly, leading many users to the site and increasing and driving monetisation. This particular WhatsApp service has over 268,000 subscribers as of August 2018. And that’s just BloombergQuint; The Quint hosts a number of other channels, such as NEON and FIT.

How is WhatsApp performing in the UK?

All this hype isn’t restricted to India, of course. WhatsApp is performing brilliantly in the UK. Facebook and YouTube are the UK’s most popular social networks, both tied with 79% of social network users in the UK as of February 2018. WhatsApp, however, is the UK’s most popular chat app, with a social network user share of 58%. That tops even Facebook Messenger’s monthly active users. Here’s how the whole graph looks.

Social networks ranked by usage in the UK
Source: https://www.messengerpeople.com/whatsapp-user-base-uk/

I’m convinced. How do I use MessengerPeople?

Here’s the ‘Use Case’ for users who would like to send notifications and alerts over WhatsApp. This is likely the area which digital publishers will be most interested in.

Use Case: Notifications & Alerts

Use messaging apps to send your customers important information or updates in real-time, reaching them on their smartphone lock screen.

  • Verification – such as registration or login confirmation, two-factor authentication, etc.
  • Confirmation – for example, booking or payment confirmations.
  • Alert – delivery status, flight time changes and more.
  • Reminder – for an appointment or an unpaid bill, etc.

After signing up for the 14-day free trial, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Click on ‘Configure Test Numbers’ in the WhatsApp Business Test Users panel in the dashboard to save the test user phone numbers (yours and your colleagues’).
  2. Have you or another test user message to your channel number (which you can find in ‘WhatsApp Business Test Users’ in the Dashboard).
  3. Once this is done, navigate to the ‘Assignment’ page and assign the received ticket to any agent. It can then be replied to via WhatsApp.

For more information on how to get started with the service, head here.

Pricing starts at €699 per month, with additional packages available according to the chat answers, agents and channels the user requires. The full price breakdown and comprehensive list of features can be found here.

There’s plenty of evidence that MessengerPeople is worthwhile for publishers. Mathematics spoke to International Marketing Manager Birgit Bucher, who told us:

Our Messenger Communication Platform is based on personalized messenger customer communication. The customer contacts a business first in order to receive information and news. So naturally, there is an impressive opening rate behind that. Our clients have an average open rate of up to 90% and click-through rate of 35%.

Most WhatsApp users also have the push-notification enabled, so the message appears directly and immediately on the lock screen. This ensures maximum awareness. With the help of our platform, companies were able to increase their customer satisfaction.

Our take

Naturally, there are downsides to a WhatsApp strategy. As you’re no doubt aware, it’s not a ‘share-friendly’ platform, so requires a strategy entirely of its own, separate to that of social media channels. Also, the way that images download automatically onto users’ phones is a cumbersome frustration, occupying gallery space and potentially leading to unsubscribes.

It's always good to be careful when using startups that piggyback services like WhatsApp, but since changing from WhatsBroadcast, MessengerPeople has been officially endorsed by WhatsApp. It is one of the few official WhatsApp Business API providers worldwide. See here for their official recognition. I asked Bucher for clarity here and she explained “...there is no risk of WhatsApp cutting any numbers of our clients. You can read more about the WhatsApp Business API here.”

Here at Mathematics, we believe the proliferation of WhatsApp presents an absolutely vital opportunity to publishers. As of the time of publishing, you have the chance to be among the first British publishers utilising the platform in this way. You should take it.


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Matthias Döpfner

Everything We Know About Facebook’s Dedicated News Tab - So Far

Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Matthias Döpfner - CEO of Axel Springer - for a discussion about the roles of Facebook and journalism in a bustling digital media industry. During their conversation, which took place in Berlin and was broadcast to the world via Facebook, Zuckerberg revealed that he was considering launching a dedicated tab within Facebook for news, which would feature “high-quality, trustworthy content”. It could potentially be introduced before the end of 2019.

Zuckerberg estimates that 10-20% of Facebook’s audience would be interested in this new section. It will be free for all users, though Facebook may pay publishers whose work is featured in an effort to encourage responsible reporting. Currently, it’s not clear if Facebook would personally pay publishers or monetize this through an ad revenue share.

Perhaps this idea is evidence that Zuckerberg will aim to remain true to the promises made in his recent essay regarding Facebook’s substantial privacy and transparency issues. Perhaps it’s a savvy play engineered to ensure Facebook can continue to compete with Google and Apple on the news front. Don’t forget, Facebook has recently been confronted with new European Union copyright rules that will require it to “compensate publishers and creators for the content that appears on their websites”. These plans could have come from a place of necessity, as opposed to genuine desire for an overhaul of practice.

Facebook may hire editors to operate the news tab, but Zuckerberg told Döpfner that currently it’s unclear to what extent the content of the tab will be chosen by users or curated by editors. We do know that Facebook had to adapt its editorial strategy with trending news after being accused of intentionally stifling conservative voices. Facebook was even found by the Guardian to have given its editorial staff the ability to add or remove content from the trending bar, at their discretion. But, Zuckerberg went on to clarify: “We’re not going to have journalists making news. What we want to do is make sure that this is a product that can get people high-quality news.” All the same, Zuckerberg added: “I want to make sure that to the extent that we can that we’re funding as much high quality journalism as possible.” Döpfner replied, saying: “I’ve always been totally convinced that quality journalism in the digital world can only exist if there is also an element of paying readers.”

Mark Zuckerberg and Matthias Döpfner discuss Facebook's news tab

It appeared that Zuckerberg wasn’t too proud to take a dig at some competition, either, claiming: “We’re coming to this from a very different perspective than some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximise their revenue” - possibly a reference to Apple News+, Apple’s recently unveiled ‘Netflix for news’ which came under fire when it was reported that it will take 50% of revenue from the service.

Another area Zuckerberg was keen to discuss was local news. Facebook’s late-2017 introduction of their ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm saw the platform begin prioritising posts from friends and families of users. This meant that only news with the most emotionally stirring, click-driven headlines broke through to news feeds. It’s highly unusual for local stories to carry the weight of scoops on a national or international level. Facebook seems to be working to undo some damage the algorithm change brought with it; proof that the promises Zuckerberg makes in his essay on privacy may hold true? Furthermore, Zuckerberg expressed a desire to make small payments to third-party fact checkers and local news organisations.

Our take

Before Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm to prioritise ‘meaningful interactions’, the idea of users clicking to a tab to view news would have had us up in arms. Surely, to have to navigate to a separate tab is to massively compromise content impressions? Well, it depends. The user intent of a reader would potentially change, which could exchange large click volumes for fewer users - but potentially users of a higher value.

If this was the case, then hypothetically, Facebook could pay publishers according to dwell time, the same way Apple News+ does. This could make for an interesting steer away from low quality snackable content driven by clickbait headlines. For some publishers this would be great news, for others it could mean the introduction of controversial practice; articles stuffed with assets that aim to keep users stuck on a page, for instance.

We'll keep a close eye on best practice for the model if it rolls out. To be on Facebook’s news payroll could be an invaluable asset for publishers of all sizes and in all areas.

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