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'NYT Sam' - New York Times To Experiment With SMS @ RIO Olympics

Rio Olympics SMS

We come across some pretty impressive uses of SMS daily. Concepts and ideas that challenge the norm, demonstrating the limitless power and potential this simple form of mobile communication can have. But even we were surprised, and very much impressed, by the New York Time's innovative take on up-to-date news coverage.

In an attempt to redefine the way we obtain and engage with news stories this Olympics, the NY Times have embarked on a unique form of storytelling to enhance their coverage. For two weeks, the deputy sports editor, Sam Manchester, will be using the power of 2 Way SMS communication, to send (and receive) text messages from the RIO Olympic games.

Those who do sign up to the service should expect to receive an automated reply message from Sam, saying  "Hey. Sam here from the NYT sports desk. I'll be your personal guide to the Rio Olympics..."

Taking Innovation to a New Level

NYT Sam SMS Olympics

The trial of SMS is an attempt to provide a more ‘personalised experience’ at the games. The use of text messages are intended to give opt-ins an almost ‘behind the scenes’  look at the games (a vantage point many of us could never have even dreamt of having), from an experienced journalist's POV.

The added benefit of SMS use is that readers will also have the opportunity to write back to Manchester. And while he won't be able to reply to each message, the responses can be used to personalize each reader's experience.

The clever innovation is a subtle attempt by the NYT to reach readers on the platform, and application, they are most comfortable and familiar with - Mobile and SMS.

With SMS boasting an incredible 97% open rate, with 90% of messages read within the first 30 seconds of being received, it's no wonder one of the largest newspapers in the world is wanting to trial the technology. 

Andrew Phelps, Director of Personalization at the Times spoke to CNNMoney about the innovation further.

"For a lot of users, messaging apps are the new homescreen," said Phelps, who helped lead the effort. "We've spent a lot of time thinking about how we might tell stories through that lens and bring readers closer to the journalism and to the journalists."

"People have asked, 'Couldn't you just do this on Twitter,'" Phelps continued. "We could, except this is a much more personal relationship. We can show up in the same place as your friend, your mom and your work colleague."

Manchester plans to send between three to four texts a day, which will include MMS, GIFs, motion graphics, videos and emojis.

Introducing Choice to the Games

It's understood there will also be texts with choice presented to those who opt into the service, for example, "What question should I ask this athlete?" or "Which team do you think will win this competition?" Readers' responses will be placed into groups by a team in New York, and Manchester can then write tailored responses to each group.

The NYT has suggested that if this technology works, they will be using SMS for other large-scale events such as the Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as The Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs and more.

"Obviously, this is foreign territory for me and for us, so we're feeling it out as we go along," he said. "But it feels like a cool way to interact with our people, and to make the Times feel a little more user-friendly."

To text with Sam, readers can sign up here or text RIO to 63937. The conversation will last throughout the Summer Games.

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