Engaging users during major events: How The Guardian used innovative notifications

Posted By Tamzin Taylor, Partner Development at Google Play

Major sporting, cultural, political events present an opportunity to re-engage users if you can find a relevant and unique way to serve them information. For example, The Guardian was able to substantially increase user engagement with its mobile app during the recent US election by using new notifications functionality in Android 7.0 Nougat. While notifications themselves are nothing new, The Guardian used innovative techniques and design elements to give their users a rich, real time update on the election results as they happened.
How The Guardian innovated with notifications
Users who opted-in received a single, continuously updating notification which was persistent on their lock screen as results came in on election night. The notification used avatars of the candidates and a progress bar to bring the information to life.

The notification showed the most up-to-date numbers of electoral votes won and states called, an indication of which swing states have been called, and the breakdown of the popular vote between the two leading candidates.

“Having the ability to have a constantly updating notification on screen, allowed us to keep our users engaged throughout election night”.
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian


Another important feature was the ability to notify users of major updates with a link to detailed information and analysis. In order to do this, the Guardian allowed the newsroom teams to push notifications of major events, such as when the 270 vote mark was passed.

Our newsroom could let our readers know in real time when there was a serious milestone, and we were able to deliver 101 unique notifications during the course of the evening. The clear menu options acted as key drivers to our journalism as the news unfolded, and meant we could get our readers connected with our content when they were most receptive”.
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian
Results and next steps

The engagement results were impressive:

  • 170K people signed up to see the alert, with 122K users interacting with the alert
  • The average number of interactions was around 620K, or 5.1 per user
  • 74% of users who saw the notification tapped through to the main live blog
  • 25% of users who saw the notification tapped through to our full results content

Finally, perhaps the most impressive statistic is that promoting live updates (via the notification) resulted in 103% increase in daily installs during election week.

“By providing our users with the ability to quickly and easily check information, to highlight major moments and to direct people to where to find more information, we can deliver value to our readers, helping them make sense of the events wherever they are, quickly and succinctly. After all, that’s what we’re here to do as a news company, and we’re delighted that the new functionality on Nougat lets us do that”
– Rob Phillips from The Guardian


On the back of the success of using Android N capabilities for live notifications, the Guardian plans to test the same approach with sports content, and explore how it could be applied more extensively to other major events like The Oscars and the Super Bowl.

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