People Magazine Is First Media Partner for Community, a Celeb-Texting Startup

People magazine is joining celebrity-texting service Community — a bid to reach readers directly with updates, news alerts and other content in a new way.

The Meredith-owned personality and pop-culture title is the first media partner for Community, a startup whose backers include Salesforce.com and Ashton Kutcher. People mag will kick off its pact with Community at next Sunday’s 92nd Academy Awards, where the publication will share content from the red carpet, backstage at the Dolby Theatre, and the after-parties to followers on the platform.

The premise is simple: People mag will share exclusive Community-only content to anyone who texts 212-479-1704, its dedicated number for the service. Users must go through a short signup process.

People will join the roughly 500 Community “leaders” who use the service, including Jennifer Lopez, Ellen DeGeneres, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jennifer Lopez, the Jonas Brothers, Amy Schumer, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Kerry Washington. There’s no advertising on Community, which launched last summer. Instead, celebrities and media companies using the service pay a monthly fee, ranging from $100 to several thousand dollars, for a direct line to their respective fanbases.

Community won’t say how many users overall participate in the service but claims that more than 200 million messages between “leaders” and users have been sent on its service to date.

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Today, People already has large followings on social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter to promote content and reinforce connections with readers. So why is it tapping into Community?  “It felt like a natural and exciting decision to talk to Community and get on that platform,” explained Zoë Ruderman, editor of People Digital. “There’s something about that intimate text and timeliness that’s exciting to us.”

Another advantage Community touts for the service is that the “leaders” on its platform fully control the messaging with their audience — it’s not lost in the noise of a third-party social network, nor is the content they post on Community subject to monetization. In addition, Community customers can directly target text messages to fans based on their location or interests, without requiring an app download.

On Oscars Sunday (Feb. 9), those who text People’s Community line at 212-479-1704 and opt in will receive texts and video messages throughout the day. The mag’s talent and editors will encourage viewers to text questions they want asked on the red carpet; weigh in on the night’s best-dressed attendees, and predict who will take home trophies.

The concept, according to Ruderman, is, “If I were on the Oscars red carpet and texting with my best friend, what would I want to know? We’re saying, ‘Let us be your ambassador with insights and insider information.'”

Beyond the Oscars, People expects to connect with its Community audience about breaking news and other topics like what’s trending in food and lifestyle and the British royals, and for events and franchises like Sexiest Man Alive and the Beautiful Issue.

“This isn’t about sending links,” said Ruderman, although People may point Community followers to specific articles or videos. “If this is the only place you are experiencing People, that’s OK.” She expects the audience for People’s Community dispatches to skew young. “Beyond age, when you text it’s a very different voice. We’re not going to be writing in headlines and decks.”

Santa Monica-based Community was founded by Matthew Peltier and Josh Rosenheck. Originally, the company was called Shimmur, a mobile social-media app, before pivoting to the text-messaging model and launching publicly in July 2019. Community’s chief technology officer is Barry Steinglass, former senior VP of engineering at Hulu.

Community closed a $35 million round of funding led by Salesforce.com with other investors including Sony and Sound Ventures, headed by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary.

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