How a campaign spiked audience engagement overnight

Vox Media used Subtext to execute a text Q&A like a pro

Vox Media understands that this year, more than ever, people are craving community and authentic connection. That’s why, like many of our hosts, they’re finding creative ways to use their Subtext campaign to facilitate a personal and interactive communication experience with their audience. Enter the campaign“Ask Vox”, created as a companion product to the successful Vox newsletter, “The Weeds.”

The team kicked off their campaign by running a presidential debate Q&A event that was hosted by one of their popular political journalists and podcasters, Matt Yglesias.

The Vox team saw incredible subscriber growth and garnered a very high engagement rate. In their own words, they were “blown away” by their audience’s response. Leading up to the “Ask Matt Yglesias” Q&A, they spread the word and urged their fans to sign up, watch the debate, and text Matt their questions and opinions while they watched. Then at noon the next day, Matt answered their questions and shared his own observations, via text of course. To say the least, the team was stunned by the unexpected engagement! They had 724 people subscribe out of the newsletter list they sent it through, and from those subscribers: “We got 889 messages, and we were … floored”, said Blair Hickman, Vox Managing Editor.

One reason they’re so excited about being on Subtext? It’s all about the “O&O relationship with the audience.” Blair describes that as “the direct communication with an audience that doesn’t rely on an algorithm.” Just this past week on a panel at the the 2020 Online News Association Conference, Blair told a group of attendees and speakers, “Newsletters are an extra app you have to open, and for a lot of people, the inbox has become associated with work in a way that’s really, not fun — and I think that texts have the potential to mirror what newsletters can give you, but in a way that is even more personal than newsletters.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Interested in running your own Q&A? Here’s a few helpful tips:

  • Leverage your channels with the largest audience, and market to them. It will help you see success the way Vox did.
  • Use Templates: From your dashboard in the inbox tab, on the left hand column is a “Template” option. Here you can create templates so that you don’t have to type out an answer over and over again. Access templates via the Notepad icon when responding to an individual. Here’s a “How To” with video tutorial.
  • Mark as read: To the left of every message in your inbox is a checkbox. You can select as many as you want and then in the upper right corner select “mark as read.” This will help you filter out messages in your inbox that aren’t really questions. Tutorial
  • Use the Star feature: If there are messages you want to come back to later — click the “star” icon and they’ll be put into your “starred messages” folder. You can come back to these later.Tutorial
  • Reply in broadcast form: While this doesn’t answer individual questions — it’s a great way to let everyone know that you’re reading the messages coming in. Even if you can’t respond to everyone individually, people want to know they aren’t texting into a black hole. This is also a great way to highlight a question that was frequently asked, which might be on a lot of other people’s minds.

Questions about this strategy or anything else? Want to start your own Subtext campaign? Please don’t hesitate to reach out at

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This is the Medium account for Subtext A service that lets you text with your audience.

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