2024 Finalist

WhatsApp Communities and Channels: Using Direct Messaging to Drive Engagement and Revenue


London, United Kingdom

Category Readership and Engagement

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

The publishing industry is facing unprecedented challenges from many of the referrers which helped build the digital news ecosystem. 

Changes to Twitter, Facebook, Google and the growth of platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram have left publishers struggling to drive sustainable revenue streams from large audiences.

After months of research, building prototype systems and taking learnings from newsletter publishing Reach PLC launched its first wave of WhatsApp Communities delivering news, sport, entertainment and one-off events directly to thousands of people -with no algorithm.

Starting small in Q1 with HullLive testing a breaking news group it became clear audiences love it and the returns were better than we imagined.

This should be no surprise as the Reuters Institute Digital News Report has been highlighting the growth of WhatsApp and news consumption for a while.

WhatsApp in Europe and Asia is the third biggest platform for news consumption and in Latin American and Africa it is the second. In the UK the report highlights that WhatsApp is the second most used platform for 18 to 24s but is the one of the lowest for news consumption with WhatsApp mainly being used as a text messaging platform - according to Meta. We saw this as an opportunity to grow audiences and build direct relationships between readers and our brands, .

Meta also confirmed to us early in 2023 that Reach was the only publisher in the world actively creating communities and developing API solutions to send pictures, videos and links at scale to take advantage of the opportunity

Results for this campaign

Reach has grown more than 90 WhatsApp Communities since its official launch at the start of Q2 2023 ranging from traffic and travel to Royals and Liverpool FC news.

One of our biggest successes was a temporary Eurovision group which grew to 2,000 members in a few days and achieved 17,000 page views from those members during Eurovision week.

WhatsApp is giving us the loyalty seen in email newsletters but open rates and click through rates four or five times higher with WhatsApp also appealing to younger people.

At the end of 2023 our communities had 150,000 people signed up who receive a handful of daily messages, written in a conversational style that fits with the app. Those messages have a 90% open rate with the majority opening them immediately due to the high penetration of the platform. 

We have also found that it is not unusual to gain more page views or videos views than the number of people in the community due to the sharing nature of the platform.

From mid April we built our first 10,000 members across all groups and we gained 135,000 page views in less than three weeks.

In May, members climbed to 18,000 and page views increased to 350,000 and in December we recorded 2.4m page views from our subscribers.

In the last two months of 2023 Reach was an early adopter of a new WhatsApp product called Channels which is similar to Communities but homed in a different section of the app.

By the end of the year we added one million people to 48 Channels which is now providing the business with half a million page views a month.

Throughout August we interviewed members and the results were overwhelmingly positive with the innovation acknowledged. It was described as their new go-to news source and a real example of ‘thinking outside the box’.



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