When cell phones were first introduced, they were unattractive, brick-like devices that could do nothing more than make voice calls and send and receive text messages. In order to entice customers to this new technology, network operators offered subscribers various value-added services, such as the ability to get news updates, infotainment, match scores, weather updates, and so on, on their phones through text messages. For a nominal fee, a customer could subscribe to any or all of these value-added services, and get their daily dose of news and entertainment in 160-character snippets. Value-added services not only increased customer’s engagement with their phones, it also brought additional revenue to the network operators. It was a brilliant marketing ploy.
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But back when there were no cell phones—I’m taking about way back, like more than a hundred years ago—and only the elite few had telephones in their homes, there was a somewhat similar service. This new service started emerging in a handful of European cities shortly after the introduction of the telephone in the 1870s. They were known as telephone newspapers.