How American Idol Influenced The World of Text Messaging

American Idol will be ending it’s 15 season run tonight, and while we may remember it for personalities like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or even William Hung (She Bangs!), it can also be linked to the rise of another star: text messaging.

Initial growth of text messaging was slow in the first ten years of it history. The average number of texts sent in the U.S. per month had gone from 0.4/month in 1995 to 35 texts per month in 2000, as phones and networks were better able to exchange SMS messsages.

Text To Vote

A major milestone for the SMS industry was the text-to-vote system designed by AT&T as a way to bring an interactive experience to American Idol viewers. In April 2003, American Idol received more than 2.5 million text messages, including polls, sweepstake entries, trivia and votes. The desire to vote for a favorite Idol contestant spurred many people to learn how to text for the first time. By Season 11, more than 600 million text votes had gone through AT&T’s network.


Text Donation

The American Idol text to vote system even inspired AT&T engineer Marian Croak to build a similar system for disaster relief donations in 2005. After Hurricane Katrina, Croak implemented a way for people to text a donation amount which could then be passed by AT&T to a charity. Five years later right after the Haiti earthquake, donation levels reached over $30 million, all by texting the keyword HAITI to a specific phone number. Text messaging continues to be a primary fundraising tool for nonprofits, either by text donation or texting links to donation pages.

So the next time you send a text, don’t forget to tip your hat to American Idol.  Seacrest out.




Melani Deyto

TextMarks is a simple and reliable SMS text messaging service that allows you to build your business or engage your community through group text communications, SMS auto-responders and mobile marketing solutions. Melani Deyto is a staff writer for TextMarks.

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