Facebook is preparing to take over another responsibility for online media: notifications. It's well known the company has been working on a real-time news app, and it's now close to launching the software with the name Notify, according to a report today by The Awl. The app appears to let users subscribe to certain news organizations, dubbed "stations," and receive notifications when those outlet's websites push out new stories. The initiative would build on Facebook's ever-growing presence as a platform for various aspects of the online news business, like its Instant Articles format for repackaging webpages as clean and fast-loading subsets of the Facebook app itself.
Hardly any media companies have maintained a well-built smartphone app that a majority of its readers actually use, at least in anywhere near the capacity of Facebook's. That gives Facebook an opportunity to add news alerts to the myriad other reasons it pings us every day. And even if a news app's readership is high, those readers are more likely to have Facebook's notifications turned on instead of the one of many websites they read. So even The New York Times and BuzzFeed, with their strong app presences, may come to rely on Facebook's Notify to direct the firehose of social media users in the right direction. (The Verge's parent company, Vox Media, declined to comment on participating in Facebook's Notify.)
Notify would also come as a challenge to Twitter, which just last week launched a new feature geared toward mobile users called Moments. The standalone tab, sitting next to notifications and messages, lets Twitter curate tweets into sections like news and sports. But Twitter, with a handful of launch partners, is also letting media companies create their own "moments," and the company expects news organizations and other third parties will ultimately create a bulk of the content.
So think of Facebook’s Notify as a way to drive users away from competing apps with similar features, like Twitter with Moments and Snapchat’s Discover, and toward one of its own products. Notify may launch as soon as the end of this month, The Awl says.
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