Matching medium and message

Regular readers will remember that we plan to do all kinds of cool stuff with cell phone text messaging. And, of course, we’ll have email alerts. Big whup, you say? Lots of news outlets do it.

But I was reminded today how wrong most folks get the time-relevance continuum. I got several messages via SMS and email this morning, informing me of Harriet Miers withdrawal from consideration for the SCOTUS.

Now if I wasn’t a media guy (and therefore inherently interested in what other outlets were doing), that would be enough to make me unsubscribe post-haste. Ditto the messages I’ve been getting from my Daily Newspaper with scores of college football games I don’t care about at all.

We in media tend to think that the bigger the story, the more likely it should be instantly pushed. Actually, I would argue that the smaller and more personal is what should be instantly pushed.

Does Miers decision affect my life directly enough that I need an SMS message? Is there any different action I could have taken today as a result of that knowledge? I say no. And that means that instant messaging is the wrong medium.

But if my neighborhood crimewatch was having an emergency meeting? SMS me, baby! Or a restaurant on my way home had a one-day special? Sure. I don’t even care if it’s an ad.

Because it’s relevant.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.