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Is American Idol to thank for the popularity of texting?

Think back to 2003. How much were you texting? Did you have a plan that included text messages, or were you paying per text since you rarely texted people?

In 2003, AT&T began its sponsorship with American Idol, and thus began encouraging viewers to text message their votes.

AT&T sent me some interesting stats. At the end of Season 2, AT&T wireless customers sent more than 7.5 million American Idol-related text messages (which includes polls, sweepstakes entries, trivia as well as votes).

The following year, there were 13.5 million Idol-related text messages. In 2005 there were 41.5 million Idol-related texts, which was the first season after the AT&T Wireless and Cingular merger.

In 2006, that number jumped to 64.5 million.

AT&T also shared these points from 2003 customer data:

  • More than one-third of all voting participants had never sent a text message as an AT&T customer before American Idol
  • The number of text votes received increased by nearly 5,000 percent from the first voting episode to the last voting episodes
  • Approximately 70 percent of text voters voted more than once

AT&T said they were not able to disclose the 2007 numbers, and they won't know this season's text stats until the show ends.

But have reality voting shows helped Americans embrace texting? Obviously American Idol is not the only show you can text your vote. I remember Verizon sponsored the texting in the CBS show Rock Star. And now every reality show has some texting element. Heck, even Bravo's reality shows like Top Chef have instant texting polls that serve no point other than to entertain. But there's no question - people are texting more now than ever before. I don't think Ryan Seacrest deserves all the thanks -- it probably also has to do with the increase of cheaper data plans from wireless providers.

But what about you? Did a television show motivate you to start texting? Or were you texting long before Kelly Clarkson hit the stage?


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Always working

Seems crazy. People have been texting in Europe and Latin America for years. Now American Idol wants to think it invented it?


i don't think American Idol "wants to think" anything.

the writer is bringing statistical information about how the popularity of AI coincides with the increased usage of texting because of a voting method and corporate sponsorship.

it's just the result of good marketing. What's so "crazy"?


I've been texting since I've had a cellphone with that capability (1999-ish). It's specially useful to pass info when you're in a position where you can't talk out loud like at work or at a meeting.

However, I'm interested in learning if Idol has had an impact on aT&T GoPhone sales and unlimited texting plans (I did upgrade to an unlimited plan just to vote for my favorite). Note that aT&T had the contestants make cameos at their stores during the hometown visits to encourage fans to purchase GoPhones to vote with. I've also seen many threads on the official Idol and other fan web boards encouraging non-aT&T subscribers to get these phones.

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