Why Don't Mobile Apps do a Better Job with Push Notifications? CNN, ESPN, Bin Laden & Andre Ethier.


One of the most powerful elements of mobile applications is ability to push notifications. Meanwhile, push notifications are rarely integrated / integrated well... and misuse is quite dangerous because it leads to consumer fatigue and removal. I've thought and written about this before (see here and here). But a couple unrelated things occurred this past week that got me rethinking about push notifications: 1. I was alerted almost instantly of Bin Laden's death by CNN's push alert (which was followed by tons of SMSes).

The CNN app sensibly sends notifications for important breaking news. They do a good job. It would could be improved significantly if it learned more about me and sent more than national / very mainstream news... but it's effective and not overwhelming. There are multiple ways this could be achieved. For instance, a deeper notification control panel (I'd instantly opt in for business, local, sports). Another option is to use Facebook Connect and my personal activity to target the news.

2. There were two no-hitters this week and three or four more games that took no-hit bids into late innings. Meanwhile, Andre Ethier's historic 30 game hit streak was broken. And millions of viewers suffered through 2.5 hours of boring telecast to see a 2minute horse race this weekend.

Point #2 is obviously centered around sports - but it is applicable to any field / interest.... so let's go down the sports example you can extract how this is meaningful for your audience / application.

I am a clearly a big sports fan. I have several ESPN applications and an MLB app that I paid ~$15.00. I would have appreciated being alerted that I might want to tune in and watch the 9th inning of a no-hit bid. Or that Ethier has one more at-bat to extend his streak to 31. Or that the Kentucky Derby horses are FINALLY approaching the gates. All three are examples of the applications being lazy: they are relying on me to proactively open the application and seek out information. Well guess what? I have given you permissions and invited you to do more.... and that's a powerful opportunity. So take advantage of it.

Just as CNN decides what is important enough to message their millions of mobile subscribers - other app providers (in this case ESPN and MLB) can do the same. As active consumers of your application, we defer to you to tell us what is breaking and newsworthy. If you do it right, you can instantly engage with your users (and engagement is the key to mobile).