A bunch of big publishers are hooking up with Facebook to establish a presence — via notifications — on the lock screens of users’ phones.
Facebook today announced a new app called Notify, which shows notifications from a select group of 70 publishers, then displays the content of the articles or videos being linked in its own browser.
It wasn’t very long ago that many publishers thought of Facebook as a competitor for the limited real estate on mobile devices. How things have changed, as Facebook’s mobile strategy has proven, well, very effective.
The truth is, it’s better to join them than try to beat them. Facebook has a 70 percent install ratio on U.S. smartphones, and 46 percent of all smartphone users launch the app at least once a day — with the average user opening it almost 16 times daily for about 3.5 minutes each time — totaling 51 daily minutes of use. Facebook, it turns out, gets mobile.
That’s not the case for many others, however. “Most publishers aren’t delivering the right user experience for mobile,” said Chris Tuff, director of business development at the ad agency 22squared. “Facebook is giving users and publishers the benefit of its mobile experience.”
Facebook said its Notify media partners at launch include: A&E, ABC, Billboard, Bloomberg Business, CBS Sports, CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Curbed, Discovery, E!, Elle, Getty Images, The Hollywood Reporter, Techmeme, Quartz, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, The Weather Channel, Groupon, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Facebook probably hand-selected its initial group of partners so that it could ensure the notifications experience is a good one for users. “In pure Facebook fashion, they will start with a smaller group, then later they’ll make it available through an SDK (software development kit),” Tuff said.
“Notifications are becoming one of the primary ways people first learn about things, wherever they are,” said Facebook’s Notify product manager Julian Gutman in a blog post. The danger is that users will see too many notifications on their screens, now that the Notify content will be added to all the notifications users already get from other apps.
The app gives users some control over their “mix” of notifications, however. Like other news apps, it asks what kinds of notifications users want to see up front (they have to select at least three publisher “channels”). Users can ignore notifications, or swipe or tap on them to open the content in the app’s browser. As time goes by, Notify fine-tunes the notifications mix based on which ones the user clicks on, and on subjects the user has liked in Facebook.
“It’s a great way for publishers to leverage Facebook’s ever-increasing audience to drive traffic to their own sites,” said Evan Wray, cofounder of Swyft Media, which helps brands establish presence on new digital channels.
But Wray did add a cautionary note, “If brands want to join the party, they most definitely have to tailor the content to fit the format.The second a user feels like advertisers are invading this space, they’re going to jump ship.”
Right now, Notify users don’t see any ads until they get to the page in the app’s browser where the full content of an article or video is displayed. The arrangement is likely a revenue share between the media brand (like CNN or CBS Sports) and Facebook, said 22squared’s Tuff, who routinely works with advertising platforms like Facebook and Twitter on behalf of brand advertising clients.
Marketers are wise to pay attention to the Notify app, because, as Tuff put it, “every target has their favorite platform.” Many users have become used to the Facebook look and feel on their smartphones, and now may become even more accustomed to using notifications as an entryway to the content.
The Notify app is only available to iOS users today, and then only to those in the U.S. An Android app is almost certain to follow.