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June 21, 2019, 8:54 a.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: ijnet.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   June 21, 2019

In an effort to crack down on “automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use” on the platform, WhatsApp will no longer allow publishers to send out newsletters through the app as of December 7, 2019.

WhatsApp banned bulk message forwarding earlier this year in an effort to cut down on the spread of misinformation on the platform.

Newsletters had been a gray area on WhatsApp, and news publishers that were sending them out had known that the platform could put an end to them at some point.

While the change applies globally, it seems to be attracting particular attention in Germany. IJNet has a good overview of how some German publishers will be affected, highlighting the experience of inFranken.de, a German newspaper that has been sending newsletters to WhatsApp users since 2014. It worked so well that the company discontinued its email newsletters.

Today, inFranken.de sends out three to five daily newsletters via WhatsApp to 12,500 registered subscribers — twice as many subscribers as they had for their email newsletter when they discontinued it in January, 2018. They are also reaching a younger audience than before, as many newsletter readers are under the age of 20.

The success was unexpected.

“WhatsApp is a very personal channel where you chat with your mother and your partner and your football team, and I honestly didn’t think people would want a brand anywhere near that,” Stich said.

“But, surprisingly that has never been an issue,” she continued. “Feedback we have gotten numerous times is that people love having news ‘delivered’ to them without having to actively search for it, or install a separate app.”

The success caught on, too. Shortly after starting the service, one of Germany’s leading newspapers, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, published an article about the initiative.

“After that, a number of colleagues from all over the country reached out to us. WhatsApp was something a lot of journalists wanted to tap into, but were unsure about the technical aspect of it. The feedback was so enormous that we organized a little conference back in January 2015 where we shared our insights and tips. After that, some of the participants started their own WhatsApp push services,” Stich said.

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