Push is a simple concept--deliver a message to an Internet consumer instead of making him or her go get it. But advertisers and publishers trying to implement the most effective form of push must deliver lightly. It's easy to shove too much or the wrong content at people, thus destroying valuable relationships.
Here's some practical advice, culled from a new research report, "Digital Delivery of News: A How-To Guide for Publishers."
1) Use the right tool for the job.
Push is not just PointCast, BackWeb and other proprietary systems. It's also plain-vanilla e-mail, the oldest form of push. If you have a weekly feature to deliver to a list of subscribers, go with e-mail. If you need to deliver a graphically rich message, send HTML e-mail. But if you have content that changes rapidly--stock prices, market reports, hourly weather forecasts--e-mail is a lousy choice.
Rather, choose a push network that delivers content as it's fresh, in real time (such as PointCast or AfterDark Online).
2) Deliver where the consumer is.
Any push technology that requires the consumer to download or install soft- ware is trouble in the consumer market. Think about what most Internet users run on their PCs: a Web browser and an e-mail application (sometimes one and the same). If you want to push messages to them, make it accessible through the most commonly used applications. Don't make people install special software (and that includes PointCast), unless you have a captive audience and know you can get their network administrator to site-install what's necessary.
3) Don't push too much.
This is a common mistake. When you allow a consumer to subscribe to a flow of content, it can't be an overwhelming amount. Everyone has too much information coming at them. All of us want small amounts of highly targeted information. The trick for a publisher or advertiser is to offer to deliver small bits of valuable content.
4) Give the push consumer fine control over what gets delivered.
Pushed content that is too broad (e.g., Bent County prep sports news) becomes junk quickly. Specificity provides true value to the consumer (e.g., Lincoln High School basketball scores).
5) Push pointers, not content.
Often, it makes sense to deliver pointers to content (accessible on the Web) rather than delivering actual content (which overloads the recipient).
With e-mail, content stacks up unread; with a push network, the amount of stuff available as the user looks at the screen is overwhelming. If you have a daily Web feature, consider sending out a daily reminder that alerts subscribers when the latest edition is available. As with all push, less is better.
6) Triggered push is better than scheduled push.
A daily weather report is a fine example of scheduled push; it's valuable, but after a while it gets taken for granted, maybe ignored. Of greater value to the consumer: Content that's pushed when a condition is met. My stock just rose 5 points, I get notified. That special car I'm looking for entered the dealer's inventory, I get an e-mail. Triggered push is seldom ignored.
7) Make it easy to unsubscribe.
Sometimes, content flow that a user asks to receive loses its value and becomes junk. People go on vacation and need an information reprieve.
Especially for e-mail services, make sure with each piece of delivered content that there are instructions for halting the flow.
Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.