For a service with so many obvious rivals AQA or 'Any Question Answered' has been a rip roaring success. It has more than 2m users who have to date received more than 18m answers to SMS based questions ranging from "How big is the brain of an average domestic cat?" to "What should I eat tonight?". That said, AQA has much bigger ambitions and one is particular which may make frustrated Twitter venture capitalists green with envy...
Today AQA has launched 'AQA2U' a service it describes as a "commercial micropublishing platform" and which I've heard neatly described as "Twitter with a business model".
In a nutshell AQA2U enables users to sign up as 'publishers' and utilise the AQA platform to send out messages on any topic of their choosing. They can attract subscribers either through the AQA database or word of mouth and for every text issued they will earn 7-9p (charities earn 12p). Who would use this service with information so widely and freely available on the Internet? AQA head and former Symbian CEO Colly Myers told me the key for many is to be niche.
Myers gives the example of a pub team football manager who can send out the results of his team to players not in attendance or interested local residents. It could also appeal to an upcoming band sending out concert dates, book clubs, bloggers, charities, comedians and even - heaven forbid - journalists. All are content creators who can attain a loyal following or just anyone with a bright idea (examples below).
On a small scale the pub team manager covers his costs and only has to put out the message once. On a larger scale famous comedians could issue a single new joke to 100,000 followers and pocket £7,000+ a message. Don't even consider what would happen with Ashton Kutcher!
Of course the rules for AQA2U are strict to avoid exploitation. AQA forbids publishers to send out more than 14 texts in a month, a maximum of three per day and none overnight between midnight and 6am. Messages are limited to 160 characters and while all content is approved by AQA researchers copyright remains that of the writer. Subscribers are charged 25p per text, take out no contract and can cancel their subscription at any time. Publishers can also choose to donate money to registered AQA charities.
Publishers register on the AQA site then simply begin posts with ".yourprofilename2u" to send their messages out to subscribers. Subscribers receive the messages beginning with "yourprofilename2u" and can unsubscribe at any time by texting "Stop yourprofilename2u". Dead simple.
Will it work? Well the Web 2.0 space is overflowing with ideas right now but this is certainly one of the most interesting ones I've seen to date...