Text Messaging Catching On in America

By: Robert Bentz

Philadelphia -- Once considered a teenage fad, text messaging popularity in the United States is rising dramatically. Worldwide, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, 350 billion text messages are sent per month. Text messages, also known as SMS, are exchanged across the world's networks with 15% of the messages being classified as commercial marketing messages.

In fact, text messaging is entering all aspects of our society, even relationships. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that nine percent of singles have even admitted to breaking up with their significant others via text message. This includes pop star Britney Spears who is said to have told Kevin Federline to hit the road via text message. Thirty percent of text users said that they've continued an argument by text message; probably part of the same group that ultimately contributed to the break ups.

But, text messages aren't just about breaking up, they are about hooking up too. Bret Dunlap, owner of Advanced Telecom Services, said that his company has been providing dating services to newspapers and radio stations for 15 years. Advanced Telecom Services' Matchlink brand has recently added a text dating service to go with its already existing online and telephone voice dating services. "It's mostly the 18 to 24 crowd that uses the mobile text message dating service now," said Dunlap.

The applications for text messaging promotions are also increasing just as quickly. Major League Baseball offers a text message service that enables its fans to catch up on the latest news and results of their favorite team. There are also custom cell phone wallpapers of team logos and unique actual game recorded play-by-play ringtones in the professional baseball offering. Two years ago, Live 8, which sponsored the single biggest text messaging promotion in history, garnered 26 million texts supporting increased government aid to poor African countries. The opportunities for promoters appear to only be limited by one's imagination. In China, cell phone advertising is exploding, but it is slower to catch on in the United States despite the fact that many advertisers who have tried it have reported outstanding results.

One of the more interesting applications that we've seen is one being sold to radio stations by Chicago-based Spark Network Services. Spark offers a suite of text messaging products called PromoTXTRadio. The text messaging products allow radio stations to offer votelines, sweepstakes, song dedications, station play lists, traffic reports, and breaking news via text message. It even allows radio stations to offer their station jingles to be played as cell phone ringtones.

Still, Americans have a long way to go to catch their Asian brethren when it comes to the growing phenomenon of text messaging. CTIA-The Wireless Association, estimates that the average Chinese cell phone user sent 651 text messages last year compared to just 203 for US wireless users.

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