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ABC News exec: Personalized push alerts, live video a powerful combination

Mobile consumption of live video has skyrocketed for ABC News since it introduced a more personalized push notification strategy, with smartphone views surpassing 80 percent of overall online consumption for some news stories.

ABC News brought out revamped iPhone and Android apps at the end of October that enable users to star stories and receive follow-up push alerts when related content becomes available. For example, users who starred stories regarding the recent shooting at Los Angeles International Airport or the Metro-North train crash over Thanksgiving weekend received follow up alerts letting them know live video was available.

?What we are seeing is that drove more live video consumption on mobile than we got on desktop,? said Peter Roybal, head of mobile product development at ABC News. ?That is pretty big because we are plugged into an extensive network; to exceed desktop is saying something.

?North of 80 percent of live video consumption with the train crash was on mobile, and it was well over half on the LAX shooting,? he said.

?Live video of a breaking news event when paired with a push alert is a pretty powerful combination.?

Varying interests
Push notifications within mobile apps are relatively new, which means ABC News and other marketers are still experimenting to find what works best. However, it has quickly become apparent that push notifications can be an important strategy for brands to drive ongoing engagement with their apps.

ABC News has partnered on its push strategy with Urban Airship, which recently released a new Good Push Index Study of more than 2,400 apps. The report found that users opted in to push notifications are retained at nearly double the rate of users who are not opted in and have 26 percent more average monthly app opens per user.

ABC News is testing to see which kinds of stories make the most sense to send out push alerts about and how granular to go on a topic that someone has indicated an interest in. Wherever possible, the company wants to minimize the amount of decisions users have to make themselves.

?How micro-specific do we want to be?? Mr. Roybal said. ?That is varying quite a bit from with different kinds of content.

?A heavy politics junkie is consuming a ton of content and wants to be very specific, like I want the hearings on Benghazi, but I don?t want something else on it,? he said. ?For other topics, like entertainment topics, we are seeing that if people are interested in Angelina Jolie, well they are always interested in Angelina Jolie.?

The inbox
ABC News decided to take a more personalized approach to push notification after its research revealed that consumers are very aware of push alerts, finding some of them to be very useful while the majority are not relevant and annoying.

With the new strategy, users may potentially receive more push alerts than they did in the past, but they will be more relevant.

The revamped apps also feature an inbox for the first time, where all of their messages are consolidated in one place. Users can save stories to the inbox and find push alerts that were previously sent.

Content is presented in threads, so users can easily scan through and catch up on particular topics.

?The idea is the lock screen is the first-to-know use case, which is the main point of alerts,? Mr. Roybal said.

?But we all get overwhelmed by too many alerts in a row and at some point you have to catch up,? he said. ?That is the point of the inbox, it is when you need to catch up later.?

One of the initial learnings from the new strategy is just how familiar app users are with the idea of clicking on a star to indicate they like certain content.

?We didn?t have the star in our app before, so we weren?t really sure if people were going to get it,? Mr. Roybal said. ?No problems there - people are using it thousands of times a day with really minimal instruction.

?That shows that there is a lot of familiarity from music apps and other apps that use the star,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York