Sidewire, the chat app for newsmakers, is making its first big step toward integrating readers into these dialogues with the launch of Reactions. Sidewire readers, who have heretofore been limited to marking favorite comments with a heart, can now add one of four reactions (a smiley or angry emoji, and a question mark or exclamation point) as well as add a question or comment. The difference for Sidewire is that newsmakers will still control whether to include responses or inquiries. They will be able to decide whether and how much to pull reader participation into chat. “You don’t have to see it unless you want to,” says Sidewire CEO Andy Bromberg. Sidewire is celebrating Reactions today with several high-profile chats, including ones with the bestselling author of the Hillary Clinton campaign tell-all Shattered, Silicon Valley’s darling House Rep. Ro Khanna, and former Democratic campaign vet Bob Shrum.
Bromberg says the Sidewire community of political professionals, elected representatives, and journalists has seen an uptick in interest along with almost every other form of media covering the new presidential administration. Reactions, then, is both a natural evolution and a big risk. As I learned when reporting on Sidewire last year, newsmakers like it because there aren’t any trolls. But readers could become disillusioned if they feel their voices aren’t being heard and included. Sidewire has built a very civil, engaged community of pros talking to each other; now we’ll find out if the audience is as professional.