We look at some examples of publishers using messaging apps to reach new readers and distribute content.
In May 2016, what portion of your browsing day is spent on messaging apps?
Probably a lot more than you did a few years ago. This chart from Business Insider illustrates the rapid growth of messaging apps in the last three years:
Combining a high mobile user base with the personal impact of the push notification means that there is significant opportunity for publishers to develop communities on some of these apps. Of course, there are particular ways of going about this. Just as publishers see different content perform strongly on Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn and Pinterest, there are certain ways of promoting the stories the right way in mobile only messaging apps.
The first thing to note is that these apps weren’t usually built with content distribution first in mind. While some of the apps now have built publisher-focussed content management systems, the experience can be jarring for many users.
The majority of people don’t sign up to get news pushed at them; they sign up to talk with their friends. That remains the case, and publishers looking to experiment with any messaging app should be aware of the pitfalls of applying a blanket strategy. Patience and creativity is needed.
Here are three examples of mobile-only apps that publishers have started to use to reach readers in new ways in recent months.
The attraction of Facebook’s Messenger app is clear: colossal reach.
With 900 million monthly active users, it’s a significant pathway into the phones of Facebook users globally, without the algorithm-related issues of the news feed.
German tabloid Bild is an example of a site that manages to get the latest news to their phones through the Messenger format.
Their ‘ticker’ feature launched in January, and allows Bild to deliver news around particular topics (football transfers, entertainment and celebrity news) quickly and natively.
That feature is now open to all publishers, and the Wall Street Journal and CNN launched their own news bots within the last few weeks. Users interact with the bot through set commands, and the bot then pushes out relevant information and updates.
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 12, 2016
Launched in 2011, Japanese messaging app LINE now has hundreds of millions of users.
The Economist has been using LINE to reach a large audience in regions like south east Asia and India, and now has over 150,000 subscribers on the platform.
As Community Editor Denise Law recently explained to us on this blog, the new platform allows the Economist to distribute its content to audiences that it would have found difficult to reach otherwise.
“LINE gives us access to highly engaged audiences in our emerging markets. We have followers in South Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia that we otherwise wouldn’t have. It also enables us to experiment with a mobile-only platform.”
The Economist tend to use LINE to push visually engaging content like photos and graphs, as well as breaking news and topical explainers.
Unlike some other messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, LINE offers publishers a dedicated CMS to create posts and upload content. Publishers also have a profile page that they can treat as a kind of ‘homepage’ on the app, and can send push notifications to subscribers.
YikYak isn’t exactly a messaging-first app like Messenger and LINE, but it’s a mobile only app that has huge traction among younger people, particularly in North America.
Users can anonymously post updates with their local communities, and vote on the best submissions. Last year, the BBC used YikYak to canvass younger peoples’ views on key issues around the Canadian election.
“We’ve been able to do some quite interesting outreach work to first-time voters. It was aimed at people who would have been a little less conscious of the output that we have, but had very interesting things to say and share about the election,” BBC Social Media Editor Mark Frankel told us recently.
If you’re using messaging apps to distribute your content, let us know on Twitter.