December 8, 2016

Breaking News, the popular alert app from NBC News, is shutting down at the end of the year.

The entire staff at Breaking News — more than 20 editors, developers and administrative staffers — will stay on payroll at NBC News until Jan. 20, a spokesperson for NBC News told Poynter. Meanwhile, an effort is underway at the company to try to find jobs for as many of the employees as possible.

“We are committed to a culture of experimentation and innovation at NBC News Digital, and Breaking News was a product that embodied that spirit for more than five years,” Nick Ascheim, the senior vice president of digital for NBC News told Poynter. “However, experiments eventually need to sustain themselves and in this case, despite every effort, we just weren’t able to get there.”

Cory Bergman, the app’s founder, tweeted about the news Thursday afternoon:

In a note to staff, Ascheim said the app “has not been able to generate enough revenue to sustain itself.”

Breaking News has built up a large following among journalists, government workers, industries whose success depends on accurate and fast news, and news junkies of all types from around the globe. Unfortunately, despite its consumer appeal, Breaking News has not been able to generate enough revenue to sustain itself. We have therefore made the difficult decision to close its operations so that we can re-invest that funding into NBC News’ core digital products to help us achieve our ambitious goals for those businesses.

Breaking News will cease operations by the end of this month. Cory Bergman and his incredibly talented team — in Seattle, LA, Chicago, New York and London — will remain with the company until late January, and we will be using the time between now and then to try and find new roles for each of them, in News or elsewhere at NBCU. We will also be working with Cory and team to incorporate the best of Breaking News’ features into other NBC News products.

The past two years have not been kind to publishing apps. Circa announced in 2015 that it was closing down, only to be resurrected months later by Sinclair. The Magazine folded, as did NYT Now and The Atavist‘s app.

In all cases, monetization proved elusive weighed against the time required to keep the apps current.

The decision to close Breaking News — with its loyal following and finely tuned push notifications — comes as publishers around the world are increasingly viewing users’ lock screens as valuable territory. According to a report released by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in November, a third of American smartphone users — most of them younger — receive news alerts, and most reported being satisfied with the notifications they receive.

And push notifications remain one of the few way news organizations can reach readers directly, without relying on increasingly dominant social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Breaking News gave NBC News a well-loved entreé into smartphones around the world, and the decision to shut it down will mean ceding some of this territory to competitors.

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Benjamin Mullin was formerly the managing editor of He also previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow,…
Benjamin Mullin

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