Pushed beyond breaking: US newsrooms use mobile alerts to define their brand

Key findings from the content study:

  • The average number of alerts received was 3.2 per outlet, per day. While most news outlets are pushing mobile alerts daily, some are doing so very aggressively. This is particularly true of outlets that provide multiple alert channels, two of which averaged around eleven alerts per day. Seven of the outlets in our study sent ten or more alerts in a single day.

  • Alerts are no longer restricted to breaking news events. Over two-fifths of alerts sent from outlets’ iOS apps were not about breaking news (forty-three percent). Ten publishers sent more non-breaking news alerts than breaking news ones.
  • News outlets have shifted toward alerts that provide detail and context at the lock screen level. Over half of the alerts in our sample were coded as providing additional context (fifty-five percent), as opposed to being headlines, teasers, or round-ups.
  • Just twelve out of thirty-one outlets used rich media in their alerts (images, videos, animated GIFs). Two outlets attached rich media to all of their alerts. Overall, 573 rich media alerts were received: 408 contained images, 111 contained videos, and fifty-four contained animated GIFs. Although images were overwhelming favored, USA Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made extensive use of video.
  • Just three percent of alerts contained a direct call-to-action. By far the most common was “watch/tune-in.” This finding is in keeping with the overall trend of informing directly from the lock screen.
  • The vast majority of outlets approach Apple News push alerts very differently:
    • Most pushed fewer alerts via Apple News than though their own apps
    • Breaking news accounted for just twenty-six percent of Apple News alerts
    • Teasers/clickbait are far more common, accounting for thirty-one percent of all alerts received via Apple News


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