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Buzzfeed is pushing its content through Apple’s Notification Center to break through the crowded locked screen

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By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

April 4, 2016 | 4 min read

While many publishers are just realising on to the value of locked mobile phone screen as a piece of real estate, Buzzfeed has cast its net further, making it easier for readers to check out the latest stories from its new app anywhere in iOS with a simple pull-down gesture.

To do this, the publisher has cottoned on to the trend of users receiving their notifications through the 'Today' notifications hub on iOS, which collects all a users’ interests and personalised alerts in one place - building a tailored extension that hits user within that feed.

Buzzfeed’s ‘quickly catch up’ extension feeds three headlines from the app one by one into the stream. After the user has swiped through all three, the widget announces ‘that’s all for now’ and gives the user an option to read on by launching the app or refresh the three main headlines.

The notifications serve as a real-time feed. It means users can get all the necessary information they need from the posts without clicking on to the app, offering them a substitute to manually searching for news all the time.

While this is great for users who want information fast, it raises issues for publishers. If people are not opening apps and are only getting their news feed from notifications, publishers like Buzzfeed have to figure out how to measure different kinds of engagement and how to monetise that distribution of content.

When asked on how Buzzfeed plans to maximise revenues from the app when its consciously encouraging them not to open it, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, managing editor for mobile at BuzzFeed News, told The Drum that its strategy is "not a site-based strategy", adding "as a publisher we are very clear that we want to distribute across all platforms".

"We are not trying to get people onto site, our goal is to meet people on the platform they are on, whether that is Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Apple News, Twitter, Snapchat etc. How we monetise through those platforms isn't by encouraging people to click on links," she added.

While notifications can be a potent way of getting content in front of readers, Buzzfeed is still exploring the best way of tracking their effectiveness if people are not opening apps and are only getting the news feed from notifications. Ishmael told The Drum the publisher is implementing its own tracking to measure user engagement, which looks at how people interact with notifications, how many people are using the extension and the click-through rate to the app. She added, however, that measuring engagement for such notifications largely depends on what Apple and Android are willing to publish.

Notifications are a powerful platform for publishers to reach audiences, but have the potential to clog up the locked screen as more are pushed out. What used to be a very unusual and impactful way of reaching people, is now a feature of many apps from games, social media, email, messages and news, all of which are sending out notifications at an exponential rate.

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