TextMarks will announce a new product tomorrow that allows publishers to charge people to receive breaking news and other information via text messages. It’s available now under a new “monetize” tab on the home page of the site.
To use this, a publisher signs up for a TextMarks account and chooses a price to subscribers (either $4.99 or $9.99 per month). Readers subscribe to the alerts via a Flash widget that’s embedded on a website or by sending a text message to 41411 plus a unique keyword, confirm the subscription on their cell phone, and then receive the alerts. The service is currently only available to U.S. cell phone users , using Cingular, Verizon, Sprint or Alltel services. Publishers decide what news is important enough to send out as SMS alerts. Up to 100 alerts can be sent per month to subscribers.
This is an excellent idea and could be a good revenue generator for blogs and other websites where readers will pay for instant notification of breaking news. The only downside – huge service fees. Carrier and TextMark fees eat up around 2/3 of the revenue, so publishers will only receive $3.00 of a $9.00 monthly subscription. Most of the rest goes to the carriers, and Textmarks keeps 15%.
TextMarks offers other products as well, including group messaging and free one to many alerts. It is one startup in the increasingly saturated U.S. SMS market. Mozes is a direct competitor, and 3Jam, Twitter and others offer somewhat overlapping services. See Marshall Kirkpatrick’s recent overview of eight SMS services for more information.
We’re probably going to be testing this service out in the near future to see if some readers have an appetite for instant notification of breaking tech and startup news.