Text messaging is changing the way newsroom communicate with readers during COVID-19

BuzzFeed News and local newsrooms around the U.S. and Canada are providing free coronavirus text messages. Get the latest updates and your questions answered.

3 min readMar 13, 2020
From the director of audience at one of the orgs working with Subtext to share COVID-19 updates.

Quick note: If you’re here to sign up for COVID-19 texts about your community, scroll to the bottom of the page for a full list of newsrooms offering this service.

In the last month, nearly 200,000 people have subscribed via Subtext to receive the latest local and national COVID-19 updates from their newsroom of choice. A dozen newsrooms from Oregon to New Jersey to Arizona are not only sharing their latest reporting with subscribers, but they’re answering reader questions on everything from how to support a friend in the hospital with COVID-19 to what temperature to reheat meals to ensure the coronavirus is killed.

A recent COVID-19 text from BuzzFeed News

“In 40 years, I’ve never seen engagement like this,” Cleveland.com president Chris Quinn wrote in an email to the Subtext team. “These accounts are binding together the community they serve.”

Quinn was one of Subtext’s early adopters, pre-COVID-19. While his newsroom saw notable new revenue streams and relationships develop from the subscription-based text communities they built around the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes and several others, it’s their coronavirus text community they’ve built and his From the Editor texts that have really proved the value of reaching their readers on one of the most widely used communication platforms, SMS.

Editor’s note: Subtext is a sister company of Cleveland.com.

In a letter to readers, Quinn writes: “Here’s the thing: We did that story (“Many people are convinced Ohio is about to shut down for two weeks: It’s not.”) only because so many of you asked about it through the coronavirus texting system we set up to talk with you. More than 8,400 signed up for those free alerts in less than a week, and you’ve already sent us more than 1,600 messages. I’ve read every one of them and responded to many.”

With engagement rates at the highest Subtext has ever seen, with some nearing 50%, the story of Cleveland.com and their community in this moment as well as those of so many others, prove that text messaging is carving it’s place in the present and future of newsroom correspondence with their audience. Goodbye algorithms, goodbye trolls, goodbye co-opted data. Text messaging provides a secure, personal and direct means of communication with not only family and friends, but with trusted thought leaders, journalists and many others in our lives.

Text us to learn more about creating your own texting campaign.

A full list of COVID-19 text message communities powered by Subtext:

National perspective:

BuzzFeed News: https://joinsubtext.com/buzzfeednews

State and local campaigns:

New Jersey by NJ.com: https://joinsubtext.com/nj-coronavirus

Central New York by Syracuse.com: https://joinsubtext.com/cnycoronavirusupdates

Covid-19 in British Columbia: https://joinsubtext.com/glaciermedia

Long Island by Newsday.com: https://joinsubtext.com/newsday

Arizona by The Arizona Republic: https://joinsubtext.com/coronavirusaz

Pennsylvania by PennLive.com: https://joinsubtext.com/penn-coronavirus

Staten Island by SILive.com: https://joinsubtext.com/sicoronavirus

Massachusetts by MassLive.com: https://joinsubtext.com/coronavirusmass

Rappahannock County, Virginia: https://joinsubtext.com/rappnews

Alabama by AL.com: https://joinsubtext.com/al-corona-updates

Oregon by OregonLive.com: https://joinsubtext.com/oregoncoronavirus

Ohio by Cleveland.com: https://joinsubtext.com/ohiocoronavirus

Michigan by MLive.com: https://joinsubtext.com/michigancoronavirus

Mission Local (San Francisco alerts in Spanish): https://joinsubtext.com/mlesp

Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania: https://joinsubtext.com/lv-coronavirus




This is the Medium account for Subtext http://joinsubtext.com/ A service that lets you text with your audience.