Silly SMS Stunts
By Mike Masnick, Tue Jun 14 23:15:00 GMT 2005

There are plenty of reasons why SMS messaging is getting well-deserved attention, but getting people to ask for tickets to a concert hardly seems worth getting a world record.

People using SMS in their regular lives is hardly a new story any more. It hasn't been for quite some time. However, it still seems like the wireless industry tries to hype up various pointless milestones to remind people that SMS exists. The latest is that some sort of world record has been set for the number of people who used text messaging to request tickets to the well-hyped Live 8 concert. The promoters, who are giving out tickets to the charity event decided to do so by making everyone request tickets by text message -- and then randomly selecting 66,500 "winners."

The Guinness Book of World Records people have claimed that the 2 million incoming text messages set a world record for "largest text-message lottery in history," which seems like a fairly narrow definition for an award. Obviously, the tickets were a hot item, and if the only way to get them is to use SMS, then that's exactly what people are going to do. That's not deserving of an award. If anything, it's a sign of just how routine the idea of text messaging has become.

In fact, it's a bit odd that the promoters of the concert have decided not to do the same promotion in the US, with the odd claim that "How many people in America text? Hardly any." Apparently, the promoters didn't do very much research on the US market, where SMS text messaging has been ramping up very quickly for the past few years, in some ways catching up to other parts of the world.

Still, what's most disappointing about this "world record" is that it's not an innovative use of SMS at all. There's nothing special or interactive about it. It's just yet another way to request a ticket. If Live 8 had offered the tickets to people who emailed or called a phone number, would it have received the same story? There's nothing special at all about the move -- other than it attracted a lot of users. However, that's not because it's SMS, but because people wanted these tickets. At least with things like voting on the various idol shows it allowed people to do something different, since they had their phones with them while watching TV. Using SMS just to request tickets is an exact substitute for other methods, and does nothing to show why SMS is any more useful than other methods of requesting tickets.