United States


Media & Entertainment

About Nexstar Digital

Nexstar Digital is the #1 local broadcaster in the US, distributing news, lifestyle and entertainment content to over 133 million people per month. To reach this massive audience, the company delivers stories through its broadcast media, digital, and mobile channels.

As the news ecosystem has been in full flux over the past few years, local newsrooms have increasingly found themselves competing with alternative news providers such as larger outlets, social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, and other nontraditional sources including online forums. In such an oversaturated media ecosystem and with more consumers turning to their mobile devices to consume their news, Nexstar Digital has stepped up their mobile engagement strategy.

A significant part of their distribution strategy is the deployment and maintenance of 122 “owned and operated” mobile apps. Each app is affiliated with a local news station, which operates at the regional market level to deliver news to a local user base.

Nexstar digital about

The Challenge

For a large enterprise managing so many dispersed newsrooms and independent mobile apps, executing a consistent digital communications strategy is a significant challenge. As a news and media enterprise, Nexstar Digital’s end goal is to achieve maximum visibility for the local stories that each newsroom publishes.

Nexstar Digital’s Vice President of Product Management, Drew Clayton, leads a team that’s responsible for the design and development of the company’s mobile products, their rollout, and coordination with the newsrooms that utilize the apps — which is a lot to think about. In launching a unified mobile app strategy, Clayton’s main goal was to maximize user engagement.

Even while they were busy developing other app functionality, the Nexstar Digital team knew they needed a way to deliver relevant news headlines to their users after they exited an app in order to grow readership/viewership and drive return visits.

When Clayton strategized around how best to maximize app monetization through increased engagement across the company’s mobile apps, he knew sending quality push notifications was important.

“Push notifications are a massively valuable tool to keep users engaged. It’s one of the main value propositions of having a mobile app and even browser push and desktop sites as well.”

Choosing OneSignal

The company had plans to launch a new, fully unified platform in 2021 for their hundreds of apps. From this point forward, the apps would be built on Nexstar Digital’s own software, with a few key vendor integrations to power certain functionalities.

In the couple of years leading up to the new platform’s rollout, Clayton’s team significantly evolved their push strategy. Nexstar Digital had been using a different SaaS platform as their previous all-in-one mobile app and push provider, but planned to abandon the vendor altogether and build their own revamped app platform. They needed a seamless way of enabling their editorial users to execute daily transactional push campaigns at scale, but their previous vendor lacked the usability they needed.

After acquiring Tribune Media, a smaller media company that was already using OneSignal push for its 20 websites, the Nexstar Digital team was curious to know what the service could offer.

When the mobile team reviewed OneSignal’s feature set, they decided to implement OneSignal for both push and web notifications across the company’s sites and apps. Nexstar Digital sought a solution that would give their editorial teams a simple way to message their end users within their existing publishing workflows, without draining their time and energy.

Nexstar digital the challenge

Executing Campaigns at the News Station Level

Each of Nexstar’s newsrooms has its own staff who are responsible for independently authoring and executing push notification campaigns. These local newsrooms are typically fast-paced and understaffed, which means users of the software need to send out effective communications with minimal effort and limited time.

Managing an additional channel can be time-intensive, but Nexstar’s nontechnical teams were able to quickly learn how to administer campaigns through OneSignal. OneSignal empowers these editorial staff to send push alerts as part of their busy publishing workflows.

“We train them [editorial staff] on how to compose and send the pushes, but with so many outlets, we can't possibly keep track of how everyone’s doing.”

Clayton said that OneSignal’s straightforward analytics have made evaluating the success of each newsroom’s’ campaigns easier from a managerial perspective. According to Clayton, easy-to-understand backend reporting was a top reason Nexstar chose the OneSignal platform. This way, Nexstar could pass on guidelines to users at each local newsroom. From there, the newsrooms could evaluate the success, or failure, of their push strategies.

Establishing Segmentation During Onboarding to Deliver Personalized Recommendations

In order to keep readers engaged and foster loyalty, these local news organizations need to deliver the most meaningful and relevant headlines to end users in order to spark their interest and provide daily utility.

One way to deliver a satisfying mobile news experience is through relevant news recommendations. Clayton says that ensuring that news alerts were tailored to user preferences was a top priority as the team designed mobile experiences across the network’s apps.

To ensure the relevance of the communications they send users, Nexstar Digital collects preferences as part of their app onboarding flows. Knowing whether a new user is most interested in political updates, breaking news, or sports, for instance, is the best way to create an app experience that’s immediately gratifying and useful.

Providing Vital Updates With Breaking News Alerts

Breaking news alerts are critical for media apps. These days, companies like Nexstar Digital compete with rapidfire Twitter updates, social media blasts, and other channels to deliver the most urgent developments in the local and national news environment.

“We rely on the outlets to send pushes that are timely and topical. Breaking news is the biggest engagement tool. That can be both local and national news coverage.”

Writing compelling headlines that matter to each station’s local user base is key to keeping locals in-the-know at all times. Executing push campaigns as soon as these updates air gives users the ability to act accordingly on time-sensitive information.

“They’re also sending out pushes for local, exclusive news that’s key for their engagement with their users. They know they’re the local experts and they’re targeting folks based on [topics] that make sense to them.”

This notification, for example, tells users current status of local Coronavirus cases. When a user receives this public health alert in a timely manner, they may decide to use this information to inform their behavior around exposures. Compared to other types of messages, breaking news updates also offer a high potential to re-engage users, says Clayton. Mastering the timing and content of these alerts is the best way to keep subscribers coming back to consume content. 

Nexstar digital web mobile push

“When we launched our owned and operated platform in April of 2021, everything went out the door with the OneSignal integration. We also integrated push on our websites.”

OneSignal’s platform would support a scalable and efficient communications strategy across the hundreds of mobile apps and websites affiliated with the nationwide network of stations Nexstar managed.

Usability was also a key consideration for Nexstar Digital, given the logistics they knew they would face in adding and training their users on another SaaS tool in their tech stacks. Luckily, OneSignal was a platform that could fit well with the fast pace of the busy newsroom workflow Nexstar’s employees face.

OneSignal’s open API allowed the team to efficiently integrate their push and web notification capabilities with Nexstar Digital’s CMS. This way, users could author and send mobile and web push directly from the CMS rather than jumping from one tool to the next. With a simplified onboarding process and an easy learning curve, Nexstar Digital was able to more quickly reap value from the product.

“The API integration is one of the main things we wanted to validate when we were reviewing vendors” said Clayton.

Building Engagement to Drive Monetization

Nexstar Digital sees the true value of push by driving meaningful engagement with their platforms. Return visits to their apps and sites mean their engagement strategy is working, because it shows users are consuming the information that matters most to them.

Drew Clayton
“OneSignal provided a more flexible system than our previous vendor, especially the API, which has enabled us to build push authoring into our CMS as part of the existing publishing workflow, so producers don’t have to go to a separate system to send a push.”
Drew Clayton

Vice President of Product Management, Nexstar Digital

Nexstar digital executing at news station level

Users with differing levels of tech literacy could go about checking their own work with OneSignal’s reporting features such as click-through rate and confirmed delivery.

“The best thing is to train them well and train them how to check their own work. If they are sending pushes out, they can go in and look at their analytics and say: how was our reach for that push?”

Nexstar digital establishing segmentation during onboarding

“During the onboarding process, when you download our apps, we ask users which topics they're interested in and we tie those to different push segments. If somebody wants to hear about sports coverage, but not so much political coverage — or vice versa — they can make sure they're only getting notifications about those topics.”

Collecting preferences during app onboarding gives users ownership over the updates they receive and creates a customized app experience from an early point in their journey. On the technical side, doing so also lets Nexstar Digital easily segment their user base with these pre-established categories and target users based on their interests.

Another reason they chose this approach was because it easily scaled across the network of apps, given that it didn’t require any custom implementation on the backend. Users were simply bucketed into a segment based on their expressed preferences, after which they could receive headlines corresponding to each subtopic.

Nexstar digital bucketed into segment preferences

Nextstar digital breaking news covid

Another example of critical breaking news updates are notifications around local crime. A notification like the one shown below includes detailed copy that gives users sufficient safety context without them needing to immediately dissect the entire story. This way, they get a short form version of the current event in question, which gives them enough information to stay safe if the crime pertains to their neighborhood.

Nexstar digital breaking news local crimes

In these situations, push notifications help build a digital experience that connects users with the most important events in their local area.

Drew Clayton
“Monetization follows user engagement. We only succeed if our users respond to the value we provide them by visiting more often.”
Drew Clayton

Vice President of Product Management, Nexstar Digital

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