Notifications Penetrate the Lock Screen

The battle to win the attention of mobile customers will be won and lost in the notification space. Before checking our Facebook news feeds, in the future we will check our notifications on the divice of our choice. So as I said in an earlier blog post, the future Facebook News Feed is the notification feed.

 Therefore app makers have an interest in pushing out as many notifications as they can get away with in order to capture as much engagement as possible from their users. However, anyone who has installed dozens of apps knows that  bombardment by constant notifications can cause disengagement instead:  turning off  the notification stream entirely becomes the user’s only refuge. Thus app and platform developers are struggling to find out what level of notification (chime, ping, lit up home screen) users will tolerate.

One of the deciding factors is whether the information is relevant to the user. Relevance often depends on the context — that is, relevant to the time, place, and headspace the customer is in. Knowing that, during the recent Paris terrorist attacks, the NBC-owned Breaking News app issued three levels of notifications: the first went to people in the geographically determined neighborhood of the attacks, the second was an emerging news story to a broader audience, and the last was a global alert.

An app called The Breaking News app turns the traditional publisher reader relationship around by bring an alert directly to an intended recipient rather than to a mass audience. Its goal is to deliver the most relevant information to someone at the time they need it. It isn’t looking to rack up page views.

“Did we target this person with something new they need to know right now,” said Cory Bergman, co-founder and gm of the app. “By really focusing on marrying speed and relevancy, the higher the open rate becomes, the more relevant the notification, the more visitors we get to the app. There’s notification fatigue, and the more straightforward we are, the more loyal they are to us.

A similar theory is behind Facebook’s new Notify app, which launched recently. Notify offers users a choice of  publisher pages and topics to follow, and sends notifications when something new is uploaded. For sites that publish often during the day, users can choose the most popular story or the story of the day. Allowing people to choose what they would like to see makes them sign up for more notifications and visit sites more often. Facebook is doing a revenue share with the publishers who are on Notify.

In the early days of the internet, A company named Pointcast tried a primitive form of push notifications to the desktop, only to find that users thought them obtrusive and ignored them. After a highly touted launch, Pointcast went down in flames. If notifications are over used and not relevant, there is a risk that the whole notification space will also go down in flames!