Issue addressed Herein we discuss translational challenges for new media interventions, using the Sexual Health & Youth (SHY) short message service (SMS) project to illustrate particular challenges relating to recruitment and evaluation. Methods Following the delivery of an SMS sexual health program, available documents (progress reports, communications with project staff, ethics submissions and reporting) were analysed thematically to elucidate the barriers to recruitment, implementation and evaluation. Results Despite being framed by evidence-based research, the project had little impact on the intended population. Only 119 of an expected 5100 young people (2%) enrolled to receive SMS messages. Program documents highlighted the difficulty of recruiting participants for new media interventions. Key issues identified in recruitment included under-resourcing, delays waiting to receive ethics approval and challenges of school-based recruitment. Conclusion The minimal impact of the SHY program illustrates the need for improved research translation in the field of new media interventions. It is important that recruitment procedures align with the convenience and appeal of mobile phone-based interventions. So what? New media research is not always easily translated into community settings. Large-scale recruitment requires adequate resourcing and careful planning, even for low-cost mobile interventions. Stronger formative research, documentation and use of partnerships are essential for successful implementation. Researchers must also consider translation in planning and disseminating their work.