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Regional daily lets readers know ‘what’s app’

A regional daily is thought to have become the first British newspaper to launch a service delivering news alerts direct to readers’ phones via the messaging platform Whatsapp.

Whatsapp – seen by many as the next big thing in social media – hit the headlines earlier this year when it was bought by Facebook for $19bn.

Now the Oxford Mail has become the first regional title to launch a news alerts service via the app.

The Newsquest-owned officially started the service a fortnight ago on Monday 2 June and has already signed up almost 200 readers for its news and sport services.

The paper’s alerts comprise a morning bulletin of the Mail’s best stories and an evening wrap-up of the most popular stories online, as well as major breaking news alerts.

Assistant editor Jason Collie said the key advantage of the service was the fact that the news alerts are much more likely to be read than tweets or Facebook posts.

“We’re really excited at the way our readers have embraced this new platform, although we are still feeling our way with it,” he told HTFP.

“But it takes getting your stories out there via social media to a new level because, unlike Facebook or Twitter, you know an alert has pinged on the reader’s phone demanding attention.

“During our trial Oxford United striker James Constable announced he was leaving the club. Now on Twitter there were six or seven tweets carrying this news, so we were relying on a reader choosing our Tweet over the other ones competing in their timeline for attention at some point.

“With Whatsapp we knew everyone’s phone went ping with our message straight away, and the likelihood was greater that it is our story they read.”

Whatsapp is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world with 500m users worldwide.

Added Jason:  “There is huge growth in Whatsapp. This won’t replace Twitter and Facebook but you’ve always got to take your stories to where the market is and Whatsapp is looking likely to be somewhere our readers are.”