The US is a great source of inspiration when it comes to local news. In this special podcast series, we are taking a look at smart and experimental stateside newsrooms and their approaches to revenue models, audience engagement and newsgathering processes.
In this week's podcast, we talk about SMS - short messaging service - better known as texting. In the US, there are lots of local newsrooms opting for a more direct and personal way to interact with their readers via SMS.
Two of those are San Francisco Chronicle and L.A. Taco, both based in California. The Chronicle is a long-standing local news outlet covering the Bay Area of San Francisco, while L.A. Taco is a community-focused news website in the heart of Los Angeles. Two very different news outlets but one shared objective: identify a major news beat and experiment with text messages to navigate it.
Jess Shaw, the newsroom director of audience for The Chronicle talks about how her newsroom has played around with SMS as a subscriber perk over the past three months. Digital subscribers get access to a text message service that keeps them in the know about one of California's biggest stories this time of year: their wildfire season which peaks between July and November.
Lexis-Olivier Ray, a housing, justice and culture reporter for L.A. Taco, talks about his own grant-funded SMS channel. Since the start of the year, he has been sending text message updates to the homeless or 'unhoused' community with health information and city cleaning schedules which routinely displace these people. Homeless people are not often checking emails or engaging with other media, but they do frequently have mobile phones, so texting is the best way to stay in touch.
Tune in to find out what has, and has not, worked when experimenting with texts, and for tips on where to begin if you would like to give it a go.
Both of these channels are fulfilled by Subtext, an SMS subscription platform that operates in North America. It is worth noting there are similar providers in other regions, and equally, strategies like these could work on platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram.
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