User engagement has become a first-page issue for news apps.

Winning the readers’ attention appears to be more complicated today when users show twice the level of trust to the updates distributed on social media and messengers and don’t recall the sources of news delivered via aggregators.

The number of digital news outlets that have their own apps dropped by 11% in just one year. How can remaining players stay in the game and keep their audience engaged?

Pushwoosh has spoken to three experts in digital media and journalism about best practices in push notifications and their role in driving user engagement in news apps. We summed up their answers in several thematic blocks for you to comprehend and apply their tips easily. Please meet:

Nic-Newman-3Nic Newman — a journalist and digital strategist who played a key role in shaping the BBC’s internet services for over more than a decade. A founding member of the BBC News Website and ex-Head of Product Development for BBC News. Senior Research Associate at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University.

Alexander-SpinelliAlexander Spinelli, Engagement Editor at STAT, a Boston-based news publication reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine.

Jodi-Leese-GluscoJodi Leese Glusco, Director of Digital Content at WRAL.com. An Emmy, Murrow, and Eppy Awards winner.

How can a news app make their mobile push notifications seen, read, and clicked?

Nic Newman:

The key thing is for your alerts to stand out in some way:

  • Capitalize on your brand authority in a particular field (e.g. breaking news, sports or entertainment).
  • Elaborate a particular style or tone of delivery.
  • Be respectful of the user’s time.

Timing and frequency of news alerts feed into a user’s decision on whether they are worth clicking and reading.

Jodi Leese Glusco:

  • Use clear, concise language.

A push alert is not the place to get cute.

  • Use images that specifically add information to the push.

Don’t rely on generic images, stock “Breaking News” banners or an alert without an image.

Alexander Spinelli:

  • Lead to some great content.

A push notification is only as good as the content that goes with it, especially when it comes to distributing health and medicine news and opinion.

A push notification 'might' grab people's attention, but it’s the journalists’ work that keeps readers coming back.

What do editors seek in push notifications?

Alexander Spinelli:

  • Capability to actually deliver news

At STAT, the most important part of our work is content. It's crucial to us to ensure our news is a) reliable and b) reported out.

Jodi Leese Glusco:

  • Ease of use

Push notifications should be simple to write once, tweak, and send across platforms and apps.

What matters for the readers in push notifications?

Alexander Spinelli:

  • Creditable, well-reported work.

A push notification is only as good as the content that goes with it.

Nic Newman:

  • Accuracy matters more than speed in a breaking news context these days. It is hard for a publisher to beat social media for speed, but reliable facts have become more of a premium. People understand it takes time to check and verify information, and they will thank you for taking those extra few minutes.

Alexander Spinelli:

  • Prompt news delivery

Our editors would suffer being second or third to publish a story if it meant putting in the work to make sure the story is done right once it goes out.

We love to use push notifications for delivering breaking news, and they seem to be an effective tool.

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Jodi Leese Glusco:

  • Relevance of information

Only push something your readers need to know. This will vary by audience. For example, as a local news organization in Raleigh, WRAL skips many national and world alerts; our audience does not depend on us for that.


Statistics confirm that push notifications are the most appropriate for distributing local news: 42% of adults in the US claim to get local news alerts on their mobile phones.

How can media retain their readers’ trust when sending breaking news?

Nic Newman:

  • Avoid clickbait

We know that clickbait is one of the biggest drivers of mistrust. It can deliver results in the short term but will be damaging over the longer term. Make sure:

- Your headline matches the content;

- It fits the expectations of your brand;

- The headline is not overly sensationalist in a bid to get clicks.

  • Avoid sending news too quickly

It is easy to destroy trust by sending alerts too quickly and undermining your credibility.

  • Use branding as a shortcut to trust

Consistent track record over time is the key determinant of trust, and you can apply the same approach to mobile alerts.


Earlier research showed that the rise of news aggregators challenged the news brands’ authority. However, the audience’s approach to media brands has started to change. Now 56% of news consumers claim to take more notice of the news source. This way, they try to resist the misinformation overload that marked the pandemic.

How can news apps offset the lack of context in such a short format as push notifications?

An earlier study by PEW Research showed that 52% of those who get news alerts do not click through to the full story or search for more information. These were 66.5М users who risked getting an incomplete or incorrect picture because they lacked context.

Working on increasing push notifications CTR and, thus, getting the extended news read appears to be reasonable. What else do experts recommend?

Jodi Leese Glusco:

  • Include attribution

Don’t merely break news — note where it comes from, being as specific as possible. If it is sourced reporting, include how many sources there were and add a description of each source’s role or position to add credibility.

  • Deep-link your alerts to a detailed story.

This will help you build trust over time.

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How to introduce sending push notifications to your editorial flow?

Nic Newman:

  • Think about news alerts as part of a wider audience strategy

This will help you work out the right content strategy and define the right metrics.

  • Which audience are you aiming at?
  • Are you trying to get users to come back to the website/app or to deliver value on the lockscreen itself?
  • Where is the gap in the crowded mobile alert market?
  • How can your brand stand out in content, tone or style?
  • Do you want to increase the frequency of your app visits in general or for a particular type of content?
  • What metrics will you use to measure success?

Jodi Leese Glusco:

  • Create a plan

Make sure all managers and anyone who can send an alert share an understanding of what rises to the level of a mobile push notification.

  • Measure as you go

Be aware of uninstalls and fewer users enabling alerts (opt-ins and opt-outs).

  • Promote push notifications opt-in across your platforms

Draft a plan to use your other platforms to deliver the value proposition of enabling alerts. Among other things, make sure all your people have those talking points to communicate to friends and family.

Drive maximum engagement in your news app

Alexander Spinelli:

My approach to driving engagement is trying to touch every big platform I can:

  • Posting on the major social platforms;
  • Trying to get stories picked up on LinkedIn News and Apple News;
  • Getting a story trending on Twitter.

My goal is to try and get as many eyeballs on our one-of-a-kind journalism any chance that I get!


Certainly, push notifications are among the most efficient ways to attract maximum attention to your editorial’s work. Most importantly, when you target your news app subscribers, you can get relevant attention to your content.

Pushwoosh can help you implement the expert tips shared in this post. Our platform has an extended set of push notification features tailored to the needs of media. Contact us to learn more about Pushwoosh solutions and see how you can drive engagement and retain trust in your news app.