The Blog

Using WhatsApp To Deliver News Alerts Is Great - But Ever So Laborious

A WhatsApp news alert service is a brilliant idea and works really well but there are some rather glaring problems...

In our never-ending quest to find innovative ways to bring you all of our best content, we've been trialling a WhatsApp politics alert service.

And it's great for a number of reasons.

Firstly, stories are delivered directly to someone's mobile - there's no effort involved on their part, just a notification and a link to the story.

Further, because people have to sign up for the service, you can be guaranteed they are exactly the type of people who want to be informed of the latest political developments.

This has been reflected in an incredibly high click-through rate, far in excess of what we see on Twitter and Facebook.

An added bonus is that it's a two-way street. We can have conversations with individuals, clarifying points that they're not sure about and pointing them in the direction of extra material if it's a topic that especially interests them.

And we're not just limited to text and a link - splash images, video and any relevant pictures can also be sent.

Then there's the potential for snap polls and opinion-taking. With a direct link to a set of people with an interest in politics we can garner an insight into public opinion in a flash.

I'll admit though, there was some trepidation when launching the service. You're throwing out a phone number into the public (thankfully not my personal phone) so you'd expect a bit of spam in return.

There has been a little and we've had one person attempting to phone us for unbeknown reasons but basically, it's easily ignored.

So yeah it's great.

Apart from one MASSIVE problem. Adding/deleting a large number of people to broadcast lists is one of the most tedious experiences of my professional life.

Every individual has to be added to the phone's contacts and then added separately to the broadcast lists.

To remove someone from the list if they request it, involves finding them amongst all our other subscribers and removing them from the contacts.

It is a bloody nightmare.

This was fine when we were starting out but when word got out via our Facebook pages the trickle became a flood and one arduous day saw me spending a good four hours adding all the newcomers.

I'm helping plan an event next year at Wembley Arena and would love to use WhatsApp to keep people informed of developments in the buildup but the thought of having to go through this process with up to 12,500 people doesn't exactly fill me with joy.

So, it's a great service, is really interactive and delivers a huge click-through rate but please, WhatsApp, now you've got all that Facebook takeover stuff out of the way please work on making it much more user friendly for publishers.

I really want to continue this service and roll it out to other verticals but I don't know if my brain - or my battered fingers - can take it much longer...