Sex, drugs and the Twitter micro-novel; what’s next the Howard Stern tweet?

What is the micro novel? Will writing and reading novels via hand held sms devise find a market worldwide? The press seems to be divided on this trend (excluding Japanese press), I think there is a good argument in favor of increasing popularity of content driven sms usage in the United States and globally. First, some facts about mobile and text “SMS” usage around the world….

In North America we are expected to send approximately 301 billion sms messages in 2008. Western Europe’s mobile message usage is projected to be approximately 215 billion in 2008, according to recent Gartner research figures.

Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, will continue to lead the growth of mobile messaging worldwide next year, according to a Gartner report. Asia has led the way for mobile phone use and sms usage since the late 90’s, partially due to cost. Analyst House estimated that 1.5 trillion messages sent by the Asian region subscribers in 2007, will grow to 1.7 trillion in 2008. Making up the greater part of messages calculated across major markets worldwide, including North America and Western Europe. In total the number of messages sent is expected to increase from 19.6 percent 2007, to 2.3 trillion in 2008, stated the Gartner report.

According to the Wireless Federation (a wireless industry research conglomerate Headquarters in London, United Kingdom), the projected growth rates outside of the United States are as follows:

India’s wireless usage has grown 54% over the past one year adding over 100 million new users. Mobile usage in this country is approximately 25 percent. Mobile operators are currently targeting rural markets where there are large populations of non users. See chart below for SMS usage.

Nigeria beats South Africa with 44 million subscribers in 2008, which makes it largest mobile market in Africa. It is believed that its new customer base is growing at a rate of almost one per second, and market penetration stands at approximately 30%. According to the Wireless Federation, “Across most of Africa (including Egypt), SMS is likely to be the only non-voice value-added service to gain mass market popularity in the immediate future, while non-SMS mobile data usage is low.”

Greece has reached its saturation point and there is “no or little room for organic growth” through new customers. The industry operators are now targeting “prepaid users to migrate to postpaid plans, and introducing mobile content and data”. The most popular type of mobile usage is sms mobile data usage. It is believed that by 2010, “Greece will be the most highly penetrated market in the world”, growing in mobile phone usage from 156.7% in 2008, to 173.3% in 2010.

The following 2007 charts evidence how cost differentials can drive SMS usage.

Chart Source:
Brough Turner, Chief Technology Officer, NMS Communications via LirneAsia a regional information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulation capacity-building organization active across the Asia Pacific.

Note: sms usage in the Philippines has always been popular, and it is important to mention that sms in the early days was a free service, although as sms adoption increased, a pricing model was developed.

The Wall Street Journal (last September 2007), and Wired (in 2005), also reported on this trend. Recently and SMS writing experiment by several New York Times writers was launched. The writers used sms to publish their novels in real time, just a few characters at a time.”Their medium of choice was Twitter, a service that lets you type 140 characters at a time, to be read by people who subscribe to your updates.”

Earlier this year, a New York Times front-page article appeared on the Japanese cell phone novel trend, stating that popular micro novels in Japan are being published in hardcover and made into movies. Mobile writing and reading are a good match for the Japanese commuter culture (in the United States we also have an increasingly large commuter culture on the East and West Coast), and Kanji symbols.

Here is an excerpt of the SMS writing experiment by Mathew Richtel, a New York Times writer.

On May 31, 2008, the LA Times reported that more than 300 writers took part in the “under the 140-character count” SMS Story writing contest. Brian Clark, who manages Copyblogger, developed the contest. He stated that five of the story evaluation judges were “overwhelmed with good submissions, and that it was difficult to select the winners.”

CNN reported on April 25, 2008, that University of California-Berkeley graduate student by the name of James Karl Buck “helped free himself from an Egyptian jail with a one-word Twitter blog post from his cell phone.” While in Mahalla, Egypt, reporting on an anti-government related protest, He and his translator were arrested, and on his way to central booking used his cell phone to send a text to friends using Twitter. The one word message said, “Arrested.”

CNN’s Rick Sanchez started using twitter to allow his audience to follow new updates real time.
Rick Sanchez Debuts Twitter on TV

Today at 3 p.m. EST, CNN’s promiscuous social media adopter Rick Sanchez debuts a TV show called Rick Sanchez Direct.

Web 2.0 is about sharing information using social networking technologies such as Twitter (and its competitors Pownce, and Jaiku), and sms messaging. In the United States, while sms is popular in the 10-25 years age group, it is increasing in usage among adults and business users. And will continue to become more popular with adults and business users as good content is developed. According to both the Mobile Marketing Association and Pew Internet & amp; American Life Project Surveys, 40% of US Mobile phone users text. The split by age group is as follows: 13-24’s: 80% text, 18-27’s 63% text, 28-39’s: 31% text, and 40-49’s:18% text.

Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider suggests, “There are 4 million connections between Twitter users (Twitterers following other Twitterers, with some duplication obviously), based on a slightly higher number of 1.3 million total users three weeks ago.”

As costs for sms fall, usage will likely increase, more affordable 3G iPhones type devices will develop, and improved content should appear. A good analysis has been made by Dimuthu Ratnadiwakara stating that, “It was discovered that SMS usage is not influenced by the actual cost of sms, but influenced by the relative cost of a call to and sms (i.e. call charge per minute/charge per sms).”

Ayesha Zainudeen states that “other factors are at play (language, literacy, etc); cost is probably the most important, however, when considering the ‘cost’ of and SMS, it is important to distinguish between the actual costs of sending one message, versus the relative cost of sending a SMS message. For instance, Pakistan has been seen to have the lowest SMS charges among the five countries considered in the above-mentioned study, even lower than the Philippines, the sms capital of the world: What matters really is the relative cost of sending an sms .”

Well produced sms content offerings such as novels’, short stories, motivational messages, reality shows, sports, Howard Stern style sms, innovative Twitter posting and search tools,  and comics will increase user interest, and will hopefully lower relative sms costs addressing perceived costing issues. Technical literacy, local language interfaces, mobile banking, and devices like the 3G iPhone will also increase sms usage. The demand for quality user content (which I believe already exists among current SMS users), involving a variety of quality content choices will speak to the interests of many of today’s tech savvy youth, and older sms users. Web and mobile phone portals offering different sms down loadable content should develop to facilitate the demand for content.

A recent article by Wired states that music industry performers are also using Twitter to keep in touch with, and build their fans base. For example, with R.E.M.’s Twitter feed fans can receive reviews, view set lists for live shows, or get updates on what songs are undergoing sound checks.

Although SMS is a basic and sometimes tedious form of communication, it provides entertainment and a moderate level of intellectual stimulation. Ultimately it will be up to the individual user to decide what information they want to follow with sms feed. As reported by TechCrunch, Twitter’s usage is between 850,000, and 3 million per day depending on which reports you chose to believe.

The future of SMS is only a Tweet of good content away.

By Peter Sabbagh

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3 responses to “Sex, drugs and the Twitter micro-novel; what’s next the Howard Stern tweet?

  1. Very interesting article. I just wrote a post on “Social Media For Health Care Professionals” I would love to know you opinion on it.

    Keep up the great blogging.


  2. Thanks for the fascinated insights into micro-novels and for quoting my blog post on SMS pricing. I have one qualification: the graphs that you attribute to me are actually from a publication by the folks at LIRNEasia entitled, Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid.

    Again, thanks for the info on micro-novels.

  3. Pingback: What the f… is a disruptive technology, and why is it changing the world today? « Resource for Social Media

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