The Australian ABC, like every broadcaster and news provider, wants to make sure that as many people get to consume their output as possible — in whatever environment they want to consume it.
The publicly-funded organization has been experimenting with news headlines and alerts on a number of different platforms for a while. Instant messaging services have been particularly interesting to the corporation as a way to quickly reach audiences.
An experiment using WhatsApp was popular — possibly too popular. "We had to type each alert into an actual mobile phone," Lincoln Archer, Deputy Editor for Mobile at ABC News Digital, told me. "It became quite popular, with thousands of people using it — but you could only send to relatively small groups of people. By the time we'd sent the alert out to the 23rd different group, perhaps the breaking news we were telling people about wasn't actually breaking any more."
Over a coffee in a coffee shop next to the ABC's sun-soaked riverside headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, Lincoln told me that they've used Facebook Messenger since November 2016.
He explained that the ABC's use of Messenger is not just another hooked-up RSS feed, blasting news alerts out to users. There's a different tone of voice for ABC News on Facebook Messenger — "It's different because it's a different medium," he said to me.
The ABC News Facebook Messenger experience is more conversational and friendly in style than traditional bulletins or articles. Frequently using emoticons, the messenger alerts gives users "just enough" information about a breaking news story.
A message last month about Donald Trump's tense telephone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came with a uncomfortable-looking smiley face — another message about an airline suspending flights had a button to find out more marked "Wait, what?" A button marked with a little cute puppy allows the reader, at any time, to ask for some good news.
Since Facebook Messenger is a much more intimate experience, it was only natural that the intimacy of audio should be explored. Working with Andrew Davies, Distribution and Partnerships Coordinator from ABC Radio, the team recently made a number of pieces of original audio to accompany the network's Oscar coverage.
Five pieces of short audio were made, presented by Jason Di Rosso from ABC Radio National's movie program "The Final Cut" - once more, produced bespoke for the platform to reflect the different tone of voice. The audio was produced as an MP3 and sent out to