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WNYC’s Note to Self sent 300,000 texts to 15,000 people; here’s how they did it and what they learned

It was for an experiment measuring information overload: “There’s a conversation going on between me and my listeners, but I want to make it as frictionless as possible for them to get their thoughts and worries to us.”

Receiving 1,700 voicemails might sound like a nightmare to some [raises hand]. For Manoush Zomorodi, the host of WNYC podcast show and podcast Note to Self, it was an “incredibly gratifying” sign of a job well done.

In February, Note to Self launched Infomagical, a week-long series designed to help listeners free themselves from information overload — you know, the inevitable side effect of a life spent glued to your phone.Note to Self had run a similar project, Bored and Brilliant, in 2015, in which the show partnered with two different apps to let listeners track how much time they spent on their phones. This time around, Zomorodi and John Keefe, WNYC’s head of data news, were interested in interacting with readers via direct texting. Zomorodi had been reading about conversational commerce — the idea that businesses can move beyond apps by texting directly with consumers. “We’re a public radio station, so it’s a little different,” she said. “But we loved the idea of not only being able to talk directly to our listeners, but that they would be able to talk back to us by rating themselves, contributing data, and leaving voicemails.”

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