Time Inc. to use mobile messaging with magazines

Time will use mobile messaging programs to promote some of its magazines.

Time will use mobile messaging to promote some of its approximately 138 magazine titles through offerings such as news, voting and exclusive content, the publishing giant announced Monday.

Time has awarded an exclusive two-year contract to London-based Flytxt to develop and implement interactive mobile programs for Time publications, starting with campaigns for People and Teen People magazines that have already begun, according to Flytxt representative Susan Donahue.

The strategy should be a smart move for Time, and not just for youth-oriented titles, said analyst Mark Donovan of M:Metrics, a research company based in Seattle.

"Text messaging is one of those mobile applications that is delivering value to people in all age categories," Donovan said. An M:Metrics survey released Monday indicated that in the three months ended Feb. 28, more than 37 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers had used text messaging at least once in that period. Still, the heaviest usage is among young subscribers, he said: About 34 percent of those using text messaging at least once a month were under age 24, he said.

Time wants to reach its readers wherever they are and form interactive relationships with them, according to a statement from the companies. Time's editorial and marketing teams will use Flytxt Direct, a product that lets Flytxt clients directly set up and manage their mobile messaging programs, Donahue said. The platform also allows for profiling of readers, which can be used for tie-ins to third-party marketing campaigns, she said.

The "Teen People Mobile Club" program, already under way, includes competitions and daily horoscopes in addition to news, votes and mobile content, the companies said. Users sign up by sending a keyword via text message. Users may then get messages from Teen People as well as its "affiliates and partners," according to an information page at http://www.teenpeople.com/teenpeople/mobile. Standard text messaging rates for the user's mobile operator apply, it said.

Audience interaction programs such as voting on the Fox TV reality show "American Idol" have caught on with some people, but companies using mobile messages for marketing have to walk a fine line to promote rather than degrade audience loyalty, Donovan said.

"When text messaging turns into just spam, or sort of advertising without some payoff [for the audience], I think it will tip into something that's an annoyance," he said.

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