April 18, 2003

For a long time, I’ve been telling American publishers that they should get ready to use mobile telephone Short Messaging Services (SMS) for news delivery and as a micro-transactions processor. Some 9% of the 35 billion SMS messages sent each month in foreign countries are from content providers, many of which are newspapers earning solid revenues from sending news, sports, financial, and entertainment information as paid premium SMS. But most American newspaper publishers (those who’ve even heard of SMS) consider it exactly that — a foreign concept.

But the 1 million votes by SMS and 1.5 million related (poll responses, sweepstake entries, and trivia) SMS messages that American consumers have sent via the AT&T Wireless network to FOX TV’s American Idol program might wake up publishers to this new wireless interactive medium. American broadcasters already have. Moreover, the Verizon Wireless mobile phone network last month assigned five-digit “short” code numbers so that the ABC, CBS, CNN, ESPN/ABC Sports, NBC, Fox Network, Fox News, Fox Sports, MTV, and WB television networks can use SMS on Verizon’s or other American companies’ wireless networks. And the international SMS Meets TV conferences have begun scheduling North American venues. The Newspaper Association of America years ago examined how its newspapers could use the now obsolete Wireless Applications Protocol (WAP), even though few Americans used WAP. Where is the American newspaper industry’s leadership about SMS and its newer version, Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS)?

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