As SmartNews’ referral growth balloons, here’s what publishers need to know about working with them

SmartNews, an aggregator app featuring the top trending news stories worldwide, is providing significant referral growth for publishers, grabbing the attention of many as a potential distribution platform.

In a 2019 traffic predictions post, Parse.ly called out their growth as something publishers should pay attention to. Here’s what Parse.ly had to say:

If you’ve been lurking around any nerdy news Slack channels, or audience-focused Facebook groups, you’ve probably seen this name making a splash! Not the largest external referrer by a long shot, but is up 145% YoY, and growing at an average of 9% MoM, with a steady trajectory upward. SmartNews is the most reliably growing external referrer. In a good month you might see your traffic from SmartNews up to +17%, but even a “low” month will generate +1% growth. Big  here – get on board.

We talked with executives at SmartNews about their model and how interested publishers can work with them.

Tell us a little about SmartNews, how long you have been around for, your mission and your reach?

SmartNews was launched in early 2012 in Japan and late 2014 in the US, where we began a major push for more growth last year. Our core mission is to provide the world with quality information and we have over 15 million monthly active users, with the highest average engagement per user according to leading market data tools like Comscore or App Annie (about 2x more time per user per month compared to other news apps).

Parse.ly recently reported that among their partners your platform is delivering the most growth. What’s been the secret?

Teamwork first and foremost. First, we work hard to assure that only trustworthy publishers appear in the app. Then, we work hand in hand with them.

Given the ongoing issues with social media and the weaponization of news, we wanted to provide a quality experience. Second, we have a closed close working partnership between our marketing and content teams to quickly launch and promote exciting new offerings: from our local news with over 50 city channels now available to our newly minted Christian news offering, we can see that many users are craving a more diverse news discovery experience.

Finally, our agile product team is constantly A/B testing but, unlike other apps, our key focus is not almost exclusively click-through rate but a complex mix of engagement and quality (amount of time reading an article…)

How are publishers working with you today and who are you working with?

Globally, we work over 700 top publishers and, in the US, we have recently passed the 350 publisher mark. We work a very diverse group of publishers including leading industry names like CNN, ABC News, Fox News, Vice, USA Today, Business Insider and many more specialized publishers. At core, we value having news from all sides and perspectives included in our app.

If a publisher wants to work with you, what should they know about the relationship, i.e. terms?

At this time, for the US, a new publisher will usually first contact us via this link and give us some perspective on their readership/audience. At first, we want to see the appeal of their content when added to our whitelist once we have vetted the quality, uniqueness and frequency of the content they publish. Then, we may discuss the creation of a specific channel if the content is appealing to our users a few months in. Our terms are very clear: you keep 100% of the revenue of the page views your content generate and we keep the revenue generated inside our app user interface.