Jan 3, 2023 - Technology

Punchbowl adds text alerts as outlets seek Twitter alternatives

Illustration of a cellphone with a blinking cursor on the screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Punchbowl News, the two-year-old Congress-focused media startup, will launch a text-based breaking news service this month to send real-time alerts to paid subscribers instead of relying on Twitter, according to the company's founders.

Why it matters: More news companies are experimenting with ways to deliver breaking news directly to readers and routing around intermediary services like Twitter, which has grown increasingly unpredictable for journalists.

Details: Beginning in mid-January, premium subscribers to Punchbowl will be able to add the text-based service at no additional charge to receive breaking news alerts.

  • Punchbowl will send the messages using a platform called Subtext that works with dozens of media companies and thousands of creators to send users real-time news updates.
  • For now, the company doesn't plan to offer the messages beyond its subscribers, seeing the service as an added benefit for paying customers.
  • Punchbowl brought in over $10 million in its first year in business in 2021, with around 10% of that revenue coming from subscription fees, Axios reported.
  • The alerts will be used mostly to inform readers about news that breaks between newsletter updates. Punchbowl publishes three newsletters a day, five times per week.

Between the lines: While publishers have long sought to reduce their dependence on third-party news distributors, the efforts gained momentum last month after Elon Musk's Twitter suspended the accounts of a half-dozen journalists for what many industry observers saw as arbitrary reasons.

The big picture: More news companies are investing in products to connect their hyper-engaged digital audiences directly with their writers.

  • The Verge redesigned its home page to include an editorially curated Twitter-like feed of content in September.
  • The Information debuted a Reddit-like news feed in July.
  • Platformer's Casey Newton said last month that he would post breaking stories about Twitter in Platformer's Discord chat rather than on Twitter itself.

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