The traditional media industry is at the middle of a technological vortex, with new media channels such as mobile and the web changing the way that people consume and interact with content.
In response to these challenges media companies, such as television, radio or publishing companies, have developed ever more cutting edge technology platforms. However, this approach sometimes means that simpler and more cost-effective solutions are overlooked.
The mobile mix in media
One great example of this is in the mobile space. More and more media companies are looking towards the latest smartphone apps and the mobile web as a way of accessing consumers on the move.
Whether these are news apps like the BBC News app, mobile TV apps such as Sky’s, or programme apps like those developed for formats such as Britain’s Got Talent, these services are all the rage amongst media companies looking to gain a foothold in the mobile space.
However, whilst smartphone-based services have a place in the market they also have their limitations. Rich mobile functionality is unarguably a powerful tool for media companies, but at the same time it intrinsically limits the potential marketplace for any such service.
The limitations of apps and the mobile web: ubiquity and penetration
The issue lies in the relatively small penetration of app- and internet-enabled smartphones, which is still only around 30% in developed markets such as Europe and US (NPD, 2010). This means that, even in the most advanced markets, more than two thirds of consumers still cannot access rich mobile services on their primary handset.
When you combine this with the relatively low reach of the 3G coverage that enables mobile internet and application access, it is clear that rich mobile media services are effectively limited in the extent to which they can reach the broadest consumer audiences.
SMS in media
SMS can be deployed in a huge range of media scenarios:
One of the classic uses for SMS in the media industry has been in voting. SMS offers viewers a simple and cost effective way of interacting with a programme and influencing its outcome, thus ensuring a more dedicated viewer experience. Initially focused on premium rate SMS, non-premium SMS is now becoming the voting channel of choice in response to widespread issues with premium rate television interactivity.
Alongside voting, competitions are a well established use case for SMS within the media industry. Viewers can be asked to enter a competition by texting their preferred answer to a number given in the programme. This interactivity drives engagement with content and thus enhances viewer loyalty. Similarly to voting SMS, premium SMS is increasingly giving way to non-premium numbers as viewer concerns over premium rate fraud have caused declining response rates.
Marketing has long been the standard corporate application for SMS. The use of SMS to distribute marketing messages direct to consumer’s handsets is a powerful way to engage directly with individuals. In the media space the applications for the technology in this way are endless – whether they are SMS updates from celebrity presenters or schedule information about forthcoming shows.
Whilst SMS is itself a text channel, it can be used to facilitate the simple transmission of richer content without the need for users to access the mobile web. Using a technology known as WAP-push, it is possible to send hyperlinks in an SMS that enable the recipient to simply click to download content. In the same way, a mobile web URL can be sent in an SMS, avoiding the need for consumers to navigate their way to a page themselves. Using these approaches, media companies can distribute rich media content using an established and easy to use technology.
One of the defining features of SMS is that it is highly impactful – when a user receives a text message they are more than likely going to read it there and then. As such, it is an ideal mechanism for alerting consumers to time sensitive information. For media companies this might take the form of news alerts around major breaking news stories, programme alerts, letting viewers or listeners sign up to receive a text when their favourite show is about to start, or alerts about other show related events, such as new online content going live. In this way, SMS can be used as an outreach mechanism to reach out to consumers in a way that is simply not possible via traditional media channels.
Two way SMS
Whilst the simple ‘push’ mechanic of SMS marketing is well established, it is now possible to use SMS as an interactive, two-way communications channel. Whereas previously a viewer might just have voted once for a show, programme makers can now respond to viewers in real time with additional content, questions or other messages. Alternatively, a broadcaster sending news alerts could invite viewers to respond with their comments on breaking news via SMS.
The mobile mix
That mobile is an important part of the communications mix for media companies is an undeniable truth. It is also true that apps and mobile web access are useful tools for the small but growing smartphone audience.
However, if the aim of a mobile media service is to provide functionality on the go for the widest possible audience, then SMS remains a real contender as the technology of choice.