SharePoint Auto Digest Email – update September 2020

12 Jun

Recently Microsoft announced a new feature: SharePoint Auto Digest Email

SharePoint Auto-News Digest sends automated email to users covering the latest News posts that they have not yet read. It is default turned on

There is a lot of fuss about this new feature, because it can possible generate a lot of unwanted emails in an organization, noise for users and therefor additional load for the support organization.

From a business perpective

For one of my clients it will be quite annoying: we’ve set up a portal, with news, which is globally available. The news items presented there are targeted for specific countries and languages. Everybody has permissions to access all news posts, but they won’t see all of them in their portal: Dutch news won’t show up for people speaking Chinese for example. These people are about to receive a weekly news digest with news in all kinds of languages and all kinds of topics that do not apply to them.

STOP

At the moment of writing there is no mention of a tenant wide control option to turn this off for everybody as it’s turned on by default.
Turning this feature off is a per user setting, which only the user itself can manage.

What is really going on

There are a few caveats:

  • Only published news posts are sent in the digest
  • Users won’t see news that they don’t have permissions to see
  • The email contains news that users have not yet read based on sites they are following

Emails are sent from SharePoint Online, no-reply@sharepointonline.com. Office 365 Message Center, o365mc@microsoft.com, as administrator emails come from.
It’s a weekly email. I can imagine these emails will be sent in batches, so it can be a different day for users.
If users want to opt-out of receiving the Auto-News Digest, they can click the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email. If they want to subscribe again then… <how?>
No branding or theming of your portal is used in the email.

Do external/guest users get these emails?

Emails are sent based on news of sites users are following. So when a guest user doesn’t have a OneDrive license, followed sites can’t be stored there and users don’t see the follow this site option on a particular site, so the auto-news digest email won’t be sent either.

Is there nothing we can do to stop sending these auto-news digest emails?

Well, we can stop users from following certain sites. When users don’t follow the sites containing the primary news they won’t receive the auto-news digest emails about news items of these sites. At my clients’ case this seems a viable solution to prevent the scenario described in the first section of this post.

A script was created which checks if a users follows a specific news site. If this is the case the site will be unfollowed by deleting the item from the list this is stored in, the Social list, in the users’ OneDrive site.

$newsUrl = "https://a specific news site" 

Connect-PnPOnline $tenantUrl -Credentials ITIdeaDev

$personalSites = Get-PnPTenantSite -IncludeOneDriveSites -Filter  "Url -like '-my.sharepoint.com/personal/'"
$personalSites | ForEach-Object {
    $id = $null
    $followed = $false
    Connect-PnPOnline $_.Url -Credentials ITIdeaDev
    $sites = (Get-PnPListItem -List Social -Fields "Title", "ID", "Url", "FileDirRef").FieldValues
    $sites |% {  
        if($_.FileDirRef -like "*FollowedSites"){
            if($_.Url -eq $newsUrl){
                Write-Host "News site followed" $_.Url 
                $followed = $true
                $id = $_.ID
            }
        }   
    }

    if($followed){
        Remove-PnPListItem -List Social -Identity $id -Force 
    }
}

Summary

The idea of sending users the news they missed is a noble idea, but it lacks any type of control. The only thing which can be done is make users unfollow sites where news is stored, but ofcourse you’re not fully in control of that either.

Please consider up-voting this uservoice: https://office365.uservoice.com/forums/273493-office-365-admin/suggestions/40623631-admin-controls-required-for-new-feature-sharepoin

Update September 2020

Admin controls are now available whereby Tenants can opt out via the Power Shell command:
Set-SPOTenant -EnableAutoNewsDigest $true | $false.

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