Advance Alpha Group, the tech and media incubator that’s indirectly owned by Advance Publications Inc., wants to find out with Project Text. The idea is to connect readers paying $3.99 a month to a feed of text updates from reporters they follow.
Advance Local’s Cleveland.com, a digital sister to The Plain Dealer, this year added Project Text to its digital offering. The service provides one-to-one access to the site’s reporters, including the ability to respond to them directly by text messaging.
Reporter Emily Bamforth sends texts about road closures, restaurant shifts, city council ordinances and other news items for the suburb of Lakewood, Ohio, which has a population of 50,000. Sports reporters Chris Fedor, Paul Hoynes, Mary Kay Cabot and Doug Lesmerises send out texts about their beats, mostly with a conversational vibe that differs from more formal news reporters.
Cleveland.com has signed up 600 subscribers — and has a goal to reach 1,500 to 2,000 households, Chris Quinn, president of the news site, told Harvard’s Nieman Lab.
“We’ve been really impressed with the growth thus far and the extremely positive response our hosts have received from their subscribers,” Mike Donoghue, the founder of Advance Alpha Group, said by text message. “We’re excited to continue to expand the platform.”
While Project Text has focused mostly on beat reporters, it sees the possibility to expand the platform to personalities and experts in other fields.
“We see a future where fitness gurus, life coaches, business and cryptocurrency experts, popular entertainers and more use Project Text to stay in touch with their fans, build community and more,” according to a blog post.
While charging subscribers less than a dollar a week isn’t likely to be that onerous for many consumers, a key challenge will be growing a subscriber base amid signs of “subscription fatigue” among audiences.
When given a choice between paying for news or subscribing to a video streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, only 12% of consumers would pick news, the Reuters Institute said in its annual Digital News Report.