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We’ve all relied on our phones over the last isolating, overwhelming year. Some of us text with family. Some text with friends. And here in Arizona, some text with P. Kim Bui, director of audience innovation at The Arizona Republic.
Since last spring, she’s sent messages en masse to anyone who signs up for the latest information on COVID-19. In return, those 3,000 subscribers text her back with their questions, concerns, and photos of the family dog, which she sometimes replies to one-on-one or with another blast.
“People feel like they know me,” says Bui with a laugh. “If I say I’m having a hard day, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. What can we do to help?’ I think people are feeling extra lonely. I mean, I’m feeling extra lonely. And any sort of connection you can build during the pandemic is big.”
One recent text in The Arizona Republic’s Subtext thread marked the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 3,000 people have subscribed to the texting campaign.
The tool she’s used to build that connection is Subtext, an SMS messaging platform that lets Bui see all of her replies, but only shows subscribers Bui’s texts and their own. That chance to create a personal, conversational relationship has drawn a variety of users since Subtext launched in 2019 — from chefs and YouTubers to musicians and other news outlets. In addition to The Republic, its journalistic clients have included local organizations like Newsday, The Des