Push Notifications

How Savvy Publishers Use Push Notifications to Generate Referral Traffic

Publishers of all sizes are making a greater effort to stand out visually in the wake of Facebook’s algorithm changes. With fewer readers discovering new articles in their News Feeds, local publishers are turning to web and mobile push notifications as an alternative channel for connecting with existing readers.

For the uninitiated, push notifications are messages that can pop up on web browsers or mobile device screens. Mobile push notifications look similar to SMS text messages. They can be sent at any time, and they alert device users to new content that’s been posted on a publisher’s site.

Push notifications sent in web browsers can look like popups, but the similarities end there. Whereas popups only appear when a visitor clicks on the website that the popup belongs to, web push notifications show up regardless of which website a reader is on. In some cases, a user doesn’t even need to have a browser window open for a push notification to appear.

For years, publishers have sent push notifications to readers who were interested in sports scores and breaking news alerts. But with Facebook’s algorithm changes shaking up the industry, digital news outlets have started looking at alternative solutions for notifying readers of the latest content and bringing existing subscribers back to their websites and apps more frequently.

The volume of push notifications sent by publishers increased by more than 50% in 2017, according to the mobile app engagement firm Urban Airship, and opt-in rates by consumers interested in receiving these notifications increased by 16 percentage points.

Push notifications have popped up (no pun intended) as a way to bypass the clutter in people’s email inboxes and direct readers to breaking stories in real-time. With segmentation and scheduling tools—standard features in most push notification platforms—publishers can even create defined feeds based on reader interests and preferences. For example, people who’ve downloaded the Wall Street Journal’s mobile app can opt to receive push notifications about nine different topics. Readers can also “follow” Journal reporters and receive notifications whenever new articles by those reporters go live.

Will push notifications alone be enough to make up for the loss in referral traffic some publishers are seeing in the aftermath of Facebook’s algorithm change? It may be too soon to tell. At USA Today, push notifications account for just 10% of mobile app opens and 5% of mobile app pageviews. As with email, it’s a challenge to get readers to opt-in to mobile or web push notifications. But many local publishers feel like they’ve got nothing to lose by offering push notifications as a service to their readers.

For local publishers with WordPress websites, implementing push notifications can be as simple as installing a plugin and configuring the platform.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular platforms for sending web push notifications.

1) PushEngage: Using PushEngage, publishers can send both mobile and web push notifications to their subscribers. PushEngage allows for segmentation, multiple sites and users, and triggered notifications, which are sent out automatically based on user actions on a website. PushEngage offers a free plan for publishers with 2,500 or fewer subscribers.

2) OneSignal: As the most widely used push notification delivery platform, OneSignal has developed a reputation for its free tools for digital publishers. Real-time tracking features let publishers monitor conversions from their notifications, while OneSignal’s A/B testing tool and segmentation targeting are helpful for drilling down and creating the types of personalized notifications that news readers actually want to receive.

3) PushCrew: PushCrew is a web-based push notification tool that works on Chrome for web, Chrome for Android, and Firefox for web. Publishers have the ability to schedule notifications and use segmentation tools to ensure that subscribers are only seeing notifications for content they’re interested in. PushCrew offers a Startup plan for free for publishers with up to 2,000 subscribers.

4) PushAssist: Publishers who want to send push notifications from their websites to their subscribers’ devices can use PushAssist to do so. PushAssist works with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers, allowing publishers to quickly reach and re-engage with readers by drawing attention to new articles, even once visitors have left their websites. PushAssist’s scheduling and segmentation tools are particularly useful for publishers who are interested in sending targeted notifications. PushAssist offers a free plan with a 3,000 subscriber limit.

For more information on best practices surrounding the use of push notifications in the newsroom, be sure to check out Pete Brown’s report for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab.

Decreasing Bounce Rates

Top WordPress Plugins for Publishers

Quality journalism brings readers to independent news websites, but the technology behind the scenes is what keeps top publishers in business. As the most popular content management system in the world, WordPress powers more than 75 million sites, from personal blogs to major news outlets. Successful publishers have taken the platform a step further by adding WordPress plugins for additional functionality.

Designed for the publishing community, these small bits of software expand WordPress’ functionality in ways that help increase revenue and improve the user experience. From creating events calendars and business directories, to selling subscriptions, WordPress plugins are vast and varied. And as entrepreneurial publishers look to diversify their sources of revenue beyond traditional advertisements, these plugins are playing a more central role.

Here are the top 10 plugins publishers should be using to accelerate the grow of their sites.

The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe

The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe offers publishers a way to add fully responsive calendars to their websites. In addition to a professional look, which can be customized to reflect more of a publisher’s existing theme, calendars have advanced functionality. For example, events can be organized and labeled by category. Events, venues, and organizers can also be bulk imported to the calendar as a time saving feature. When coupled with the Events Calendar Pro add-on, the WordPress plugin provides additional functionality like recurring events.


Broadstreet makes it easier for publishers to deliver value to their advertiser clients by adding business directories to their websites. Using the company’s WordPress plugin, existing Broadstreet users can generate portable business directories. Broadstreet’s plugin crawls the web to fill in basic details and photos from local businesses. Once they’re setup, these directories serve as additional sources of revenue for publishers, as businesses are willing to pay to post messages or add images to their profiles. Publishers who are already using Broadstreet can integrate their Broadstreet adserver zones with this plugin, as well.

Co-Authors Plus

For independent publishers looking to give their publications the look and feel of a larger news outlet, Co-Authors Plus offers a number of solutions. Using the WordPress plugin, publishers can assign multiple bylines to individual posts and add bylines for guest writers without creating separate user accounts in WordPress. Co-Authors Plus relies on template tags to list co-authors anywhere normal authors are listed on a site, including co-author archive pages and feeds. Custom post types are also available with a search-as-you-type input box. Co-Author Plus can be activated on a site-by-site basis or network-wide.


Diversifying revenue streams often means selling goods online. With WooCommerce’s free plugin, publishers are able to sell both physical and digital goods through their existing WordPress sites. WooCommerce handles the heavy lifting, with automated tools for uploading product variations and sizes, along with shipping calculators and the ability to integrate with more than 140 region-specific payment gateways. Publishers who’ve downloaded WooCommerce’s premium extension can also sell monthly subscriptions, and they can offer their readers discounts on digital downloads.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics has become a must-have tool for online news sites. With the Google Analytics plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights, publishers can quickly connect their sites to Google Analytics from inside their WordPress dashboards and see how readers are interacting with their content. Traffic spikes are revealed in real-time, and page-level analytics help publishers discover exactly which stories, sections, and even writers on their websites are generating the most interest at any given time. The Google Analytics plugin also tracks how readers are finding a site and which outbound links are being clicked most frequently.

Instant Articles

Publishers who rely on Facebook as a marketing tool can utilize the Instant Articles for WP plugin to distribute content efficiently. Instant Articles for WP adds support for Facebook’s self-hosted Instant Articles, which loads content up to 10x faster than the typical mobile web. Instant Articles preloads articles in the Facebook mobile app, so they load immediately for readers. With the plugin in place, publishers can quickly publish to Instant Articles with valid markups from their articles’ metadata and see the status of each submission as it makes its way through Facebook’s review process.


Webpages published in the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format are more likely to receive prime placement in Google’s mobile search results. The AMP WordPress plugin ensures that the articles on a publisher’s site have dynamically generated AMP-compatible versions, so they’ll load instantly on any device. The plugin creates AMP content by appending /amp/ to the end of post URLs. The AMP WordPress plugin is an open source initiative. Although it comes with a default template, publishers do have the option of adjusting aspects like colors via code.


Having a loyal audience is key to a publication’s growth. The SumoMe WordPress plugin automates reader retention with free tools designed to encourage online visitors to join email lists and share their favorite content. Publishers can create popups or floating bars along the top and bottom of their sites to increase email subscription rates and welcome new visitors. They can also use highlighters to allow readers to quickly tweet popular parts of any article. The SumoMe plugin includes a heat map feature and scroll tracking, which show where people are clicking on a site before they click away.


Publishers interested in improving their search engine rankings can add the Yoast SEO plugin. The plugin handles all technical aspects of search engine optimization to improve the chances of content ranking highly in Google and Bing. A snippet preview feature lets users see renderings of what their pages will look like in search results, while a page analysis feature checks whether alt tags contain focus keywords. Premium users have access to advanced features, like internal link suggestions, content insights, and a redirect manager. Yoast has also developed a News SEO plugin that optimizes sites for Google News using XML News Sitemaps, editors’ picks RSS feeds, and meta news keywords tags.


Hotjar’s WordPress plugin records what visitors are doing on a website to help publishers better understand how their content is being received. Recordings track every click, tap, and move of the cursor as visitors navigate through a site. Heatmaps uncover new opportunities for improvement in site design. Hotjar’s recordings can also help publishers improve the quality of their forms and feedback polls by tracking when and why visitors abandon those forms.