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Clear Channel to launch mobile texting program

Program to enable listeners to text-message radio stations to make song requests and get real-time traffic reports.

Clear Channel Communications on Monday is expected to launch a free mobile program that enables listeners to text-message radio stations from their cell phones to make song requests, get real-time traffic reports and access other information.

The launch follows a test in September of a $2.99-per-month mobile program with Cingular Wireless that allowed listeners of Top 40 New York station, Z100, to stream live broadcasts, listen to podcasts of interviews, access playlists, get real-time traffic reports and send song requests to disc jockeys via text-messaging.

But the leading radio operator said the test with Cingular, AT&T's wireless unit that is being rebranded as AT&T, had been completed and was not going forward. Clear Channel said it was now focusing on a free model that does not involve any streamed broadcasts but instead focuses on text-messaging capabilities.

People with Cingular phones will be able to participate in the latest offering if they have phones that can provide text messaging or SMS (short message service).

"Giving users an individualized, on-demand experience will strengthen listeners' connection with their favorite radio stations," said John Hogan, chief executive officer of Clear Channel Radio.

Clear Channel's new mobile program launch involves five New York radio stations and it plans to launch similar programs on up to 100 more stations by the end of 2008, beginning with stations in Salt Lake City and St. Louis in the next 60 days.

The advertising-supported programs are available via most SMS carriers, while more advanced phones will be able to access the services via WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) with rich graphics and an enhanced user interface.

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Hogan would not disclose specific terms of the advertising deals, but said it was a straightforward model.

"People will pay us for the number of people we are able to reach," he said. "This platform will add a level of accountability and credibility."

Users can send text messages to studios, take part in contests, make requests and dedications, and view the last 10 songs played. They can also check current traffic conditions, test their knowledge with station specific trivia, and participate in opinion polls.

Many content providers are jumping into the mobile industry. The Yankee Group consultancy has said it expects the mobile advertising market to more than quadruple to $275 million in 2007 and reach $2.2 billion in 2010. The market was about $60 million 2006.

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