It's great to join this community! I am looking forward to getting to know you more.
I am a (new) new media consultant and I believe Frontline SMS will be ideal during the pilot stage of a media operation that wants to explore mobile news.
The company I started did just that and progressed from the pilot stage to deals with telcos in 2007. I can say it is definitely an exciting path (reaching 180,000 subscribers took Jasmine Newswires in Sri Lanka from new media entity to player on the national stage).
My interest is in new media, or just one or two journalists, being able to commercialize their work. This would involve selling mobile news subscriptions by cash or cheque and other forms of payment where relevant.
Towards this end, I would like some information:
1) Has anyone configured FrontlineSMS for batch editing of numbers. ie can a group be made dormant or active with a few clicks?. The need here is for quick subscription management.
While I haven't done this, I would assume groups can be made titled - expiring in June, July, August, Sept etc so that different subscriptions, expiring in the same month, can be bunched together?
2) If expiration of numbers can be done automatically that would be ideal. Do you know of anyone who has worked on that coding? (A friend of mine did this coding for a telco provided application, including internet payment integration, in 2006 but it was buggy)
I would enjoy feedback on these ideas. While I have tried them, I didn't spend enough time perfecting them.
The ideal would be to see this coding available for journalists for quick deployment as it would promote micro commercial SMS news operations.
It's great to hear from you and learn more about your project, especially since we are launching a project to customise FrontlineSMS for journalists as part of the Knight News Challenge.
When you say "number expiration" is this essentially that people would be automatically removed from receiveing messages after their payment period ended? At the moment this isn't possible in FrontlineSMS but here's some ideas for a solution.
In the currently available version of FrontlineSMS, people can subscribe and unsubscribe themselves to groups via keyword so you could set up a unique keyword for each month's subscription.
We are also in the process of building a new version of the software due out next year which will form the foundations for this new tool and this is adding the ability to create smart groups based on meta data e.g. you could add a tag on each contact to mark whether they have subscribed and send messages to the people in the group. We could even investigate enhancing this functionality if you are interested to discuss further?
We're currently exploring options with mobile banking platforms and bulk SMS providers to do direct billing through the FrontlineSMS platform, but those options aren't currently available.
We'd love to keep you in the loop as the media project progresses because it sounds like you have some great ideas. Please let me know if you have further questions.
Thanks for the reply, and great to hear that you are working on an application for media!! Exciting stuff!! I will be happy to chip in wherever I can.
I am currently on a three-month contract with Internews to advise on developing mobile news services and working with Kathleen Reen and Sam De Silva, so this work directly overlaps with mine.
I am on email@example.com for email or skype: chamath3
Some areas I would enjoy discussing are:
1) in supporting journalists to monetize news services through the text medium subscription management has to be time efficient or they will spend too much time doing this and the process may not be feasible (managing more than 2,000 users may not be possible).
Integrating payment systems, automatic billing, number expiry, renewal messages is needed and this right now means having the full backing of a telco.
One or two journalists with a start-up may not get that backing, so independent alternative systems, such as FrontlineSMS, that allow them to do so would be ideal
2) the citizen journalism side, collecting SMS and convenient mobile-to-web blogging in the form of twitter, letmeparty.com. This side took off during our pilot stage, but not once we scaled up
3) keywords (thanks for the tip), using that creatively may be possible
Would be great if texts with a keyword "12mth sept" can get loaded into the relevant group and become automatically inactive after one year.
12-month subscriptions would be for the purpose of offering discounts, otherwise monthly auto renewal would suffice
4) batch loading of numbers by SMS, similar to csv. That might be useful
5) using multiple sim cards for pushing out messages might make the delivery process faster, when not working directly with a telco
Looking forward to discussing these more when you are free
Thanks for your inspiring response and for bring up such great discussion points. I'll email you now to arrange a call so we can talk about this in detail.
In the meantime I encourage anyone in the community interested in these topics to add to the discussion / share ideas.