Nieman Foundation at Harvard
If the Philadelphia newspapers wanted to convert to nonprofits, what would stand in their way?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 25, 2012, 5:21 p.m.

As news shifts toward mobile, will text alerts get left behind?

The Washington Post is ending its text message alert service, focusing on smartphone push notifications and email alerts instead.

In a blast text message to subscribers on Tuesday afternoon, The Washington Post announced that it’s…ending blast text messages to subscribers, on April 30. So don’t expect to get SMS headlines like “Mitt Romney sweeps GOP primaries in five states” for much longer. The newspaper’s mobile team was reluctant to detail how this fits into a larger mobile strategy but Beth Jacobs, the Washington Post’s mobile general manager, provided this statement:

We found that more of our readers want to receive news alerts from e-mail. And because so few of our readers were signing up for text alerts, it made more sense to dedicate our resources to push alerts through our mobile apps.

The Post wouldn’t quantify what “so few” meant. News consumption is growing more mobile, but with the number of smartphone and tablet users on the rise, it might make sense for newsrooms to abandon text alerts — which can cost money for both sender and receiver — and shift to push notifications and that old standby, email.

People are still text messaging like crazy — averaging 40 messages sent and received each day — but texting leveled off between 2010 and 2011, according to a 2011 Pew study. That’s in part due to a rise in alternatives to texting, like Facebook chat and Twitter direct messages, and because smartphone apps can generate on-time notifications without the cost of SMS. Last year, Apple introduced iMessage, a protocol that allows iOS users to bypass carriers to reach one another with what look and act like texts; BlackBerry’s BBM has been around for several years.

It wasn’t so long ago that newsrooms delivering text alerts were providing a cutting edge service for an on-demand audience. People still appear to want news and information on-demand — if text messaging is tapering off, it likely illustrates that distribution preferences are evolving.

That being said, there was only a small smattering of Twitter-expressed disappointment about the Washington Post announcement:

The Washington Post isn’t alone. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t offer text alerts, nor does The Wall Street Journal, though a spokeswoman says it once did. (It reported last June that text messaging in the United States was “slowing sharply.”)

Large-circulation U.S. dailies that will still text you include The New York Times, which offers text alerts about severe weather, real estate, sports and more. USA Today says on its website that it will text subscribers with updates on sports, weather, stock quotes, and celebrity gossip.

Photo by Yutaka Tsutano used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     April 25, 2012, 5:21 p.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
If the Philadelphia newspapers wanted to convert to nonprofits, what would stand in their way?
Some sort of attachment with Temple University could be in the works. But nonprofit law could throw up a number of obstacles to making that happen.
Medium partners with publications like The Awl and Fusion, and more native ads are on the way
Medium is rolling out a slew of changes, including publisher partnerships, updated apps, and plans for advertising.
4 takeaways from The New York Times’ new digital strategy memo
With a renewed focus on subscriptions, the Times believes it can double its digital revenue to $800 million in 2020.
What to read next
What happened after 7 news sites got rid of reader comments
Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, The Week, Mic, The Verge, and USA Today’s FTW have all shut off reader comments in the past year. Here’s how they’re all using social media to encourage reader discussion.
699Facebook woos journalists with Signal, a dashboard to gather news across Facebook and Instagram
Signal helps journalists find, source, and embed content from Facebook and Instagram.
672Get AMP’d: Here’s what publishers need to know about Google’s new plan to speed up your website
The speed gains are very real. But do publishers want to trade in the open space of what we’ve known as the web for yet another platform they have little control over?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Creative Commons
New York
Texas Tribune
Demand Media
The Orange County Register
New West
Austin American-Statesman
American Public Media
Fox News
Bureau of Investigative Journalism