IFTTT highlights ‘Applets’ that help publishers stay connected with readers

IFTTT is best known as a platform for automating some of the tasks performed by smart devices around the home, but the company’s also been working with news organizations like The New York Times and Quartz.

To highlight that work, IFTTT has launched a new collection of “Applets for News.”

What’s an Applet? CEO Linden Tibbets explained that it represents the evolution of what IFTTT used to call recipes.

“We’re able to include much more functionality into an Applet, because Applets are both more advanced, and at the same time we made sure they were simpler — Applets are simply the switch [to multiple actions],” Tibbets said.

That might be hard to wrap your head around if you’ve never used an Applet before, so let’s get concrete. The news collection includes Applets created by publishers and by IFTTT itself, and it allows users to do things like automatically send to Slack trending business articles from The New York Times, or save to Instapaper hot stories from the world news subreddit or get an email any time TechCrunch writes about a specific company.

Of course, these are all publications that can deliver their own notifications through their apps and emails. But this sounds more targeted and more personalized than what’s offered elsewhere.

“A lot of media and news organizations are starting to come around to the realization that it’s not just about driving people to one destination, or to web and mobile,” Tibbets said. “It’s really about having a presence across every surface area where people are interested in consuming news.”

So he’s hoping that publishers see IFTTT as a place where they can experiment with and build a presence on new platforms, particularly since the platform can use existing RSS feeds.

“We don’t want to replace or tell someone they shouldn’t have an app or a chatbot,” Tibbets added. “All these things right at the edge that these organizations want to be a part of, if they want to experiment, if they want to have an actual branded presence, IFTTT is the fastest and easiest way to be there.”

As publishers move onto all these platforms (IFTTT includes integrations with Evernote, LinkedIn and Instapaper, among many others), the other challenge is making money. Tibbets argued that Applets can help with that, too — for example, when The New York Times offered a free trial digital subscription to anyone who activated an Applet, the email had a 20 percent conversion rate. As for monetization within the Applets themselves, Tibbets said it’s not currently supported, “But you can bet it’s something we think a lot about.”