Politico Europe launched the EU Referendum Tracker today, a new mobile feature that will deliver the latest data and news about the upcoming vote on 23 June through push alerts in Apple Wallet.
While other publishers are also trying to capture readers' attention and interest on this topic using Facebook Live or WhatsApp, Politico is trying to work out "how personalisation and push work for our audience," Kate Day, editorial director for growth at Politico Europe, told Journalism.co.uk.
"This experiment gives us a chance to test pushing notifications to a very engaged audience who have asked to be updated about this particular topic.
"Most push mechanisms send alerts to all users of an app, so we wouldn't know if people were interested in the UK referendum in particular or they were following Politico for other aspects of our coverage."
The product was developed by Politico Europe in partnership with DigitasLBi, a marketing and technology agency that has previously conducted a similar experiment for the UK general election last year.
For the referendum, they wanted to partner with a news organisation that would be able to provide insight and analysis alongside live data, Day explained.
To download the EU Referendum Tracker to their Apple Wallet, iOS users first have to use their iPhone to fill out a form on the Politico website, providing their name, email address and country.
They can then add it to their wallet as they would any other bank card or boarding pass, remembering to enable notifications in Apple Wallet in their device's settings.
The tracker provides live polling data and figures on the referendum pulled from whatukthinks.org.
By tapping the 'more information' icon at the bottom of their screen, users can access curated analysis from Politico Europe about the referendum, which includes quotes from political figures and links to further coverage on the website.
Since the feature launched in beta this morning (16 June), it has been downloaded more than 700 times - the publisher has sent two push alerts so far.
"There seems to be a real appetite for it and that's really part of this experiment.
"We wanted to understand how people interacted with push notifications and what they found useful and get some data from that, so that as we start to think about push on lots of other platforms, we're a bit better informed about how users interact and how they respond."
The idea is to "gradually increase" the number of push notifications over the next seven days, Day said, and push information live on the night of the referendum for readers who "might not stay up and follow the whole thing, but they know that whenever they check their phone, they can see the most up-to-date numbers".
This allows the outlet to test push alerts without actually going through the trouble of building a news app.
It was also a better alternative to a Facebook Messenger bot or WhatsApp, which is "difficult to scale", she added.
"We can see quite quickly how people respond and work out what their tolerance is for the number of alerts, whether we're about right or whether we're overdoing it or underplaying it."
The team plans to reach out to readers directly after the referendum, both via email and on social media, to ask about their experience with using the tracker.
If the feedback is positive, Day said there is an opportunity to expand the feature to other Politico Europe verticals, such as policy or technology.
"The learning from this is interesting audience behaviour insights that we can then use on any other platform."
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