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Is text-generating AI an industry killer or just another wave of hype?
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July 22, 2016, 1:12 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Taylyn Washington-Harmon   |   July 22, 2016

Couldn’t watch the final night of the Republican National Convention last night? Mic had you covered. Through a push notification for mobile and desktop, Mic readers learned they could opt-in to receive live SMS messages from the Mic team on happenings at the RNC. Referring to it as “live microjournalism,” this was Mic’s first experiment with live SMS to share stories. “Everyone has so many push alerts on their phone,” said Cory Haik, chief strategy officer for Mic News. “We wanted it to be one where people are saying ‘Yes, I want it.'”

SMS Trump 2As a joint effort between Mic’s policy team at the RNC and the New York City editorial team, reporters communicated through Slack channels to the main office, which drafted and sent the official SMS messages. Users opted-in to the texts received a steady stream from the start to the end of the night, including quotes, actions, and links to additional content relevant to event happenings. “It was very helpful for people who aren’t glued to livestream or TV,” said Haik. “It gives them what they need if they’re not in the moment.”

Why use texting over, say, livetweeting updates? The key is context, according to Haik. “If you’re watching Twitter for updates, you have to be following the livestream to get the context, because Twitter is live commentary.” With the texts, “we were doing a quick micro-analysis context for our specific audience and sending that quick update.”

Mic is not the first news outlet to use SMS for news updates, of course. Startup Purple uses SMS as the core of its distribution model.

Before the live text project, Mic experimented with with SMS updates through its 23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America story, by allowing users to opt-in for an SMS series of the video. It was less than successful, according to Haik: “The content wasn’t compelling in a way for where you really wanted to follow along.” (Haik wouldn’t say how many people signed up for the RNC texts, but she said the number was significant enough to want to continue the SMS experimentation in the future.)

Haik plans for the Mic team to use the SMS update feature again at the upcoming Democratic National Convention and expand beyond just live events to utilize the tool. “When there’s something that people want to know, if you can get in there and provide it at that moment, that’s a better service and utility for SMS.”

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