Ideas on SMS news from New Mexico!

I’ve just read a post on a blog called New Media in New Mexico comment on JNW, the SMS news service in Sri Lanka. It’s not the most obvious place to find some ideas that can gain traction here in Sri Lanka with SMS news services, but I guess the essential idea of news through SMS does have a global appeal and follows my own writing on the topic for a while. The post on New Media in New Media poses some interesting ideas:

While location isn’t always a factor in news relevance as Ive posted before, it can be, especially in a breaking news /alerts environment — so feeds by region may be a feature to add. Question is if there are enough journalists for adequate geographical coverage, which is where teaming up with an initiative like Groundviews could be fruitful.

Actually, Chamath was one of the first contributors to Groundviews and remains a close personal friend as well as a staunch champion of Citizen Journalism in Sri Lanka, also through JNW’s own work in this regard. I feature JNW’s mobile alerts on Groundviews and Chamath kindly reciprocates by featuring the articles he has contributed on his site (see the section on Public Articles here). We continue to float ideas around on how he and I can improve our services respective by collaboration, though as a entrepreneur with a business to maintain, Chamath’s flexibility to introduce and experiment with new features and services is by definition limited. He’s better placed to tell the story (someday!), but the challenges he’s faced in building up his idea to something commercially viable, which I would have thought would have been the easiest to do given the potential for SMS news and information services, is really something else.

Question for techno developers ( I am not one):Can GPS data be encoded in SMS? As cell phones become more and more capable, I can envision a service where if Im driving through the countryside or across regions i can be alerted to news or info relevant to whatever location Im in at the moment. I know this is possible via other web data, – i.e., you can set up a similar service on your Blackberry or on web access from your phone — but for phones or areas without mobile web – i.e., just SMS technology – can this be done?

All mobile phones can ascertain their location roughly. This is basic GSM technology and why it is also possible to use a method called cell broadcasts in some disaster early warning scenarios. The real issue is not technical, but access to technology. The service of the kind envisioned here, with geo-location based contextual SMS news and information delivered on-demand and also automatically, will only ever be possible if the telcos who own the networks themselves initiate this service. No third party has access to geo-location information – this only resides with the telcos. While it is possible to message mobiles en masse without going through the telcos, few look upon this kindly and there is also no way to determine where a mobile is actually physically located. With JNW now in service agreements with many of the leading mobile telcos in Sri Lanka this is certainly something that Chamath can pursue, if of course a subscription model is developed to support this extra level of information services.

JNW faces some competition from Ada Derana and Reuters arrangements with other mobile service operators as evidenced by reading through this thread , which to me opens up a whole new world of 2.0 journalism: what factors define quality in this mode? What makes good SMS journalism? what do people want to do with news received on their mobile?

Reuters SMS news no longer exists in Sri Lanka and though I no longer receive JNW on my mobile, I prefer it to Ada Derana that is tellingly selective in the news it reports.

2 comments on “Ideas on SMS news from New Mexico!

  1. Chamath
    April 3, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    Hi Sanjana, greatly appreciate your posts on JNW and your site has always been humming with ideas on ICT and relevance for peace, so I intend to ask a few questions on a topic I am interested in.

    This is the issue of revenue for content providers vis-a-vis new media. I am not sure if you already covered this in previous articles.

    1) Where is the revenue for content providers going to come from?
    2) Is the web and web applications that find ways of taking free content to readers ignoring the fact that content generation is a costly exercise. Wouldn’t it be futile if content providers are undermined in this process?
    3) Is the solution then the advertising model?
    4) Are there no alternatives to the advertising model on the web?
    5) I am sure there is growing aversion to advertising (especially unethical advertising). Pay services that gives one the option of not receiving advertising may be the way forward, though new web technologies seem to undermine this.

    JNW is attempting to explore alternatives to the advertising model on the web etc, though it is not against advertising per se provided the consumer has choice about it.

    One can turn on the TV to see what a scourge advertising has become that undermines values of integrity, honesty and humility in society and where the average citizen is reduced to a mere shopping bag. hehe I feel a bit strongly about this, as you can see.

    Your thoughts or an article on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Revenue for content providers vis-à-vis new media « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - April 5, 2008

    […] 5, 2008 Chamath from JNW asks me a few questions through a recent comment on a post I made on his mobile news service that hit the core of sustainable content generation for […]

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