Bleacher Report knows that people share its content to Instagram, and now the Turner-owned sports publisher is trying to take advantage of that behavior to get people to install its mobile app.
Bleacher Report has updated its mobile app so that people can share content from the app to Instagram Stories. When people view an Instagram Story featuring content shared from Bleacher Report’s app, they will be able to tap the post either to install Bleacher Report’s app through their phone’s app store or to open the app if it’s already been installed. The publisher is taking advantage of a functionality that Instagram introduced in May 2018 but has only extended to certain companies, such as Netflix and Spotify.
Seven years after its launch, Bleacher Report’s mobile app is “our flagship. It’s the best experience of B/R that we want you to have,” said Chris Nguyen, svp of product at Bleacher Report. The app accounts for a large percentage of Bleacher Report’s owned-and-operated audience as well as its owned-and-operated revenue, he said. According to Comscore, 4.8 million people in the U.S. used Bleacher Report’s mobile app in March 2019, up from 3.7 million in March 2018. Despite that growth, the app’s monthly user base remains a fraction of the 19.9 million people that used ESPN’s app in March 2019. That suggests that Bleacher Report could do a better job of communicating to people why they might want to use its app, which is where the Instagram Stories feature comes into play.
One of the main reasons people use Bleacher Report’s app is to get customizable push notifications on breaking news involving their favorite sports or teams. These push notifications can provide a form of social currency if someone finds out about a blockbuster trade before any of their friends, which is why Bleacher Report has seen a lot of people screenshot its push notifications and share them to Instagram. “We know the No. 1 trigger in the app that drives sharing is the alerts,” said Nguyen.
However the potential audience boost from that form of sharing was a black box to Bleacher Report. “We actually had no way of understanding what they do when it’s screenshot and shared. This is a different way of tapping that behavior,” he said.
When people share a post from Bleacher Report’s app to Instagram Stories, a thumbnail of the post will appear in the story, including its title, main image, how long ago it was published, how many comments it has received and how many people have liked the post in the app. Atop the post will appear the caption “Open in Bleacher Report” that people can tap on to install or open the app.
Bleacher Report’s hope is that people will see a breaking news post that a friend shared from its app to their Instagram Story, be bummed that they weren’t the first to know and opt to install the app in order to be the one to scoop their friends in the future. That is why the publisher introduced the feature on April 25 to coincide with the NFL Draft and all the alerts it would be sending out regarding which players each team drafted and any trades that may occur during the draft.
While the feature has been available for a couple weeks, Nguyen said it was too early to share any stats regarding the number of app installs and app opens driven by the Instagram Stories feature so far.
Bleacher Report is not directly making money from the Instagram Story sharing feature. Instead, the idea is that the feature will grow the app’s user base, thereby giving Bleacher Report more opportunities to serve ads within the app.
The Instagram Story feature could help to grow the app’s registered user base. People don’t have to sign up for a Bleacher Report in order to use the app, but they do if they want to comment or like posts in the app. Since Instagram is a social platform, it’s possible that the people who install the app from Instagram may be more likely to sign up for Bleacher Report accounts in order to take advantage of the app’s social features. If they do, then that will make it easier for Bleacher Report to personalize the content and ads that it shows those people across its owned-and-operated properties.
Bleacher Report is able to track which content people are sharing from its app to Instagram Stories as well as what content shared on Instagram Stories leads people to install or open the app. However, it’s being careful with how it interprets and applies that data to the content it produces and the alerts that it triggers. “It’s not necessarily ‘this is the stuff that gets shared most, let’s go create more of that.’ It’s more that we want to make our experiences as optimized as possible for sharing,” said Nguyen.