Politico is hacking Apple Wallet for news push notifications

Media companies have spent a lot of time and money on their mobile apps. Now, in order to get those readers to actually use the app, they’ve been mastering the fine art of push notifications.

But in Europe, Politico has bypassed apps and taken another tack entirely: Apple Wallet, which has come pre-installed on iPhones since 2012, and works as a one-stop-shop to store digital coupons from brands or travel documents.

One week before the EU referendum vote, Politico readers can now sign up to stay up to date with the debate through its EU Tracker on Apple Wallet. Readers follow a link to download and add the “pass” — the name of the cards that sit in Apple Wallet — which updates with information on the EU referendum debate. Throughout the day, as breaking news about the the debate comes in, readers with the Politico pass in their Apple Wallet will also receive push notifications that appear on their lock screen. In the first day, thousands of people have downloaded the EU Tracker, according to Politico.

Kate Day, editorial director, growth, for Politico Europe, explains that the coverage around the EU referendum is the perfect topic for its first foray into push notifications.

“I have been looking for a way to test pushing more personalized notifications to users for a story, rather than breaking news alerts go out to the whole user base,” Day tells Digiday. This way Politico’s highly engaged, EU-obsessed readers will get content straight to them.

Up to four times daily readers will see breaking news notifications on their lock screen. Tapping on them will take them into the EU Tracker in their Apple Wallet, where the Politico pass will show an image of the latest opinion poll. Apple Wallet’s passes have a basic format, a front image with a few lines of text, and text on the back. The back of Politico’s pass features few lines of text with several links to the most recent news on Politico’s Live Blog coverage on the EU referendum, like “Four former leading Tories attack Osborne’s Brexit budget” and five takeaways from Michael Gove’s recent BBC debate. (EU referendum campaigning has been suspended since the killing of MP Jo Cox.)

“When it’s an audience signed up to a particular story the threshold is higher,” said Day, who insists there will be an element of caution and awareness to readers’ tolerance of the push notifications.

Politico’s poll of polls will switch to tracking votes as they are announced 23 June

“It’s a constant dilemma for news organizations to effectively push news to people,” she adds, “especially when everyone wants something different. Apple Wallet feels like an interesting way to break that cycle and sign up for something quite specific, it’s a platform with huge potential.”

Politico decided against building its own European app, the costs can be high and people are more discerning with the number of apps they use. Equally, using Whatsapp for breaking news, as the BBC and the FT does, was passed over as it’s too manual a process and hard to scale. Facebook Messenger is still in its early stages with publishers like CNN and Business Insider experimenting.

Agency DigitasLBi, who partnered with Politico for the EU Tracker, was testing pushing content through Apple Wallet during last year’s general election.

“It’s fully integrated into the system. Other content services exist in silos, in apps or on websites, whereas this is available for a wider audience,” said Rafe Blandford, mobile strategist at DigitasLBi. “It’s about getting attention in other ways, currently Apple Wallet is a green field.”

Blandford also sees more opportunity for Wallet outside of publishers, for brands offering a utility, tracking a parcel, ordering a cab, offering an alternative to owned apps and messaging ecosystems. “It’s not going to replace apps, but it will reach more people.”

In the future, Politico will use Apple Wallet for signing up people to other stories, Day hasn’t ruled out brand sponsorship, but people will have to download a new pass. The EU Tracker is a broadcast channel, but there are more capabilities in Apple Wallet for personalization. For instance, Politico can integrate its subscription service, Pro, so users that have already identified their preferences will be sent relevant passes to the relevant news stories.

Politico won’t confine itself to Apple Wallet either, but will look at Facebook Messenger and other platforms, as well as automated bots.

“We’re testing this with that view in our mind’s eye, our hypothesis is that the behaviour of signing up to receive a push notification means people will be open to it,” said Day. “Talking back to the bot is obviously different, but this is the first part of our journey, we’re first looking at how people respond to the frequently updated stories.”


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