Classifieds can now be sent in via text messaging thanks to SMS Pal, a text message classified ad company. The service costs 99 cents for every listing and is charged back as a premium SMS message to the user’s carrier. The classified ads run on line at smspal.com and in local participating newspapers.
Based in my town of Carlsbad, CA, the company was started last July by former Apple Online Store engineer Joe Moreno, who noticed lots of texting activity in 2005 when he served a stint in East Africa, where he was stationed as a Marine Corps Reserve.
Moreno’s innovation is taking out several text words for classifieds, including “sell,” “job” and “skills.” Instead of renting out his own short code, he is working with an SMS aggregator. Using his service, ads can be up in 160 characters. “Most cellphones make a ‘ping’ when the cell tower has processed it,” he says.
SMS Pal’s first affiliate is a small Arizona newspaper, The San Tan Sun News. SMS Pal is currently in discussions with other newspapers and has aspirations for international outlets. Moreno’s expectation is that the local papers will serve as promotional partners, supplying print display ads, etc. A number of newspapers are already using texting to deliver news headlines, he notes.
Moreno says the East Africans have made a marketplace around their cellphones since they don’t have ready access to the Internet. In the U.S. Moreno expects the service to appeal equally to smartphone-savvy users sitting in Starbucks, as well as less advantaged people who don’t have easy Internet access. He has observed, for instance, that African-Americans and Hispanics are the heaviest users of cellphones. Without Internet access, “they can’t use Craigslist; they can’t use eBay,” he says.
The next step for the service is to provide users with SMS updates. “People will want to be looking for specific merchandise or jobs. They’ll want to find babysitters and lawn service workers.” As with ad placements, the alerts will also run 99 cents.