Local news websites across the country have seen remarkable traffic as the public clamors for more and more information on the ever-evolving situation that is the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pundits and media watchers nationwide recognize this as an opportunity for the local news industry to demonstrate its value as an essential source of information in the community.
“This is the perfect example of ‘all news is local,’” said Jed Williams, chief strategy officer for the Local Media Association, during a recent E&P Reports podcast. “We all need to be very much in touch with what’s going on around us.”
Local news publishers are seizing on this spike in traffic with push notifications turning casual browsers into loyal subscribers. Using a platform like Pushly, publishers are able to engage their audience with requested content, building relationships with their readers, and capitalizing on the opportunity to provide their communities with vital information.
“When we look at our local news partners during this unprecedented time, the spike in site traffic and resulting subscription to web push notifications show clear trust from the general public in their local news outlets,” said James Redler, Pushly’s Director of Partnerships, Implementation and Growth. “We’re also seeing our partners leverage Pushly’s best-in-class personalization tools to make intelligent decisions about which subscribers get which content.”
News and media sites had seen their traffic drop throughout 2019, falling 5.3 percent according to a report from SimilarWeb. That trend started turning in 2020 with the Democratic primaries and the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. According to SimilarWeb:
News consumers are requesting more push notifications about COVID-19, according to recent research from Pushly. They have raised their hand saying they want content and breaking news alerts directly from their trusted news source and they want that information fed to them conveniently, even when they are off the site.
The use of push notifications also grew at the height of the pandemic in the first quarter. In March, once a national state of emergency was declared, 19 percent of push subscriptions were converted on coronavirus content, according to Pushly data. Also in March, 56 percent of push content was dedicated to coronavirus, up from just 2 percent in January. More than half the clicks in March were on coronavirus content, up from 5 percent in January. Clicks on coronavirus-related push content was up 11 times from February to March.
“People who visit local news sites opt in to get web push notifications at roughly a 5 percent subscription rate,” Redler said. “Publishers that use push notifications are able to immediately begin bringing readers back to their site and point them toward the most relevant content. The resulting boost in repeat traffic and page views can drive significant revenue opportunities.”
Each page that loads for a visitor has ads, providing value for the advertiser. The more visitors who come back and consume the content translates to more clicks and more advertising revenue. Publications that use push notifications on a large scale create the opportunity to produce incremental revenue gains.
Redler said most publishers are probably seeing a lot of first-time visitors hungry for the latest local information on the pandemic. They are there because the information affects them directly, and they want it from a trusted source. “Creating a one-on-one relationship with those visitors and generating even more visits throughout this time is critical to making hay during an admittedly difficult period for the industry,” he said.
Outlets using push notifications have been able to convert breaking news alerts into repeat visitors. The average click-through rate on coronavirus push notifications in the first quarter was 7 percent. That’s three times the click-through rate of email and seven times that of social media. Mobile was also the dominant platform with 90 percent of subscribers engaging on their mobile devices.
“Publishers have a greater opportunity to own their audiences,” Redler said. “The data confirm push notifications as a better method of delivering content over social and email. The ability to segment audiences and personalize the content creates the opportunity to turn visitors into loyal subscribers, subscribers that can be marketed to advertisers. It is truly the best way to deliver impactful ROI.”
Pushly is the audience engagement solution trusted by thousands of publishers looking to expand, retain and monetize their traffic with data-driven, personalized push notifications.