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Politico proves publishers can become Apple Pass masters

By David Murphy

Mobile Marketing Magazine

London, United Kingdom


The last couple of years have seen a seismic shift in how we consume content of all types.

On one level, consumption of newspaper content has shifted in great numbers to digital devices. Firstly, to the desktop, and then to mobile and tablet. This has fueled a trend toward the creation of shorter-form content that lends itself well to the snacking mentality on mobile, where we tend to read short-form articles, or view short videos, when we have a few minutes to spare waiting for a train or a meeting to start.

But it has also driven a change in the places people go to on their devices to consume that content.

Just as publishers were becoming adept at using social media to promote their content and drive people to their own destinations to consume it, Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Apple devised ways to keep readers on their platforms, rather than heading back to the publishers’ own, via Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News.

While many publishers have signed up to these platforms, you get the feeling most have done so somewhat grudgingly. As Jeff Perkins, commercial director EMEA at Reuters said at an industry event recently, “Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News are good places to distribute content, but we are not seeing much money.”

The problem is Facebook wields so much power, in terms of the size of its audience, that publishers are afraid of being left out, even if they don’t think much of the terms involved in being included. This particular battle looks like it will rumble on for some time yet, and it’s hard to see any other outcome than Facebook dictating the terms.

But, in the meantime, with Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to sign off on a more positive note. This involves an example of real outside-the-box thinking that has reaped rewards for one publisher, and which should serve to remind others there is more to life than fighting the Facebook fight.

The iPhone users among you will be familiar with the Apple Wallet, the app on your iPhone used to store payment cards, loyalty cards, boarding passes for flights, entry tickets to conferences, and other such things.

If you have any passes in your Apple Wallet, you’ll see a small “i” (for Information) symbol in the bottom right-hand corner. Click on it and the front of the pass is replaced by a second screen, with whatever information the company that issued the pass wants to populate it with. We have used them for some of the conferences we run for the agenda plus the location of the event.

As you may have noted from the above list of applications, the Pass is a fairly versatile beast. Earlier this year, political magazine Politico proved exactly that point when it used an Apple Wallet Pass to create an EU referendum tracker.

The Pass was used as a vehicle to deliver content and notifications to iPhones. Once readers had installed the Pass, Politico’s European newsroom could send real-time content and notification alerts, informing passholders of key breaking news as it happened, and driving them to the Pass, which contained continuously updated story links.

The front of the Pass featured graphics displaying polling results leading up to the June 23 vote, and then switched to display live results as they came in from 382 voting districts. The back of the Pass provided summaries and links to Politico’s latest coverage, driving traffic to its Web site.

In one week, between the launch of the Pass and the referendum vote, Politico surpassed its goal of gaining 10,000 passholders in 104 countries. The campaign was also great for attracting new readers, as 74% of registered Pass users were new to the organisation’s database.

One week after the results of the referendum were declared, 81% of Passes were still active on readers’ mobile devices. And when Politico asked users how they felt about the Pass, 37% said they found it easier, simpler, or more convenient than using an app.

Given the success of Politico’s EU referendum tracker, I feel confident in saying this won’t be the last time a publisher uses the Apple Wallet Pass in this way. But in being the first to do so, Politico, together with its tech partners DigitasLBi and Urban Airship, has shown what’s possible with a bit of lateral thinking.

Congratulations to them on a great piece of work, and a very happy Christmas to all the INMA community.

About David Murphy

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