Archive for the ‘Directory assistance’ Category

Addafix Rolls Out in Denmark

June 3, 2010

Social caller ID and next-gen DA service Addafix (formerly Yellix) has launched in Demark. The company also operates in Austria and Germany. The caller ID function integrates with Facebook but also identifies numbers not among the user’s contacts through a look-up via a directory partner. In Denmark the partner is publisher De Gule Sider.

The business model is a revenue share based on local business lookups. As mentioned, in each country there’s a directory (yellow pages) publisher partner, which provides advertiser listings to Addafix for distribution.

Here’s Addafix’s discussion of how the business model works:

The caller unsuccessfully calls a pharmacy for instance, a pizza delivery service or a craftsman and receives additional data of the recipient such as other mobile or fixed line phone numbers. Furthermore, three alternative companies are displayed which are located within direct geographical vicinity of the dialed phone number. If a user dials a number of a plumber in Copenhagen and can’t reach the company because the line is busy, ADAFFIX will show additional contact information as well as three other plumbers nearby within seconds. Another call is initiated simply by pushing a button, contact details of companies can also be added to the contacts list on the mobile phone.

I asked CEO Claudia Poepperl if she could provide any additional color or data on how things were developing. Here’s the note I received:

All I can share with you at this point is that in the countries where we are live adaffix is one of the top mobile search traffic drivers for our publishing partners…it’s running in the background all the time and continuously generates local searches as phone calls happen…and a lot of phone calls happen all the time.

As I’ve said before it’s something of an unlikely success but the service has now won multiple awards and seems to be doing quite well.

A Closer Look at Mobile App Yellix

November 4, 2009

Picture 31I got my first hands on look at Yellix, a mobile app that integrates Facebook and directory listings. It’s on all smartphone platforms right now but the iPhone — to which it’s coming.

The app is clever and defies easy description and categorization. If two Yellix mobile users are also on Facebook, when one of them calls the other they’ll see their Facebook profile pictures and recent status updates on the phone’s home screen. They will also see the top callers from their network on Facebook (via the Yellix FB app).

If the call is not from a number in the user’s address book, the app looks up the number in a database and identifies the caller (if possible) in real time.

If you’re calling a business and don’t get through the app gives you the ability to call again or provides three alternative listings (from directory publisher partners) in the same business category. These listings are at the discretion of the YP publisher but generally will be advertisers. This is the business model as I understand it right now.

This is not the sort of app that would be easy to “get” from a VC perspective; it seems to have a bunch of unrelated moving parts. Yet the app won an award in Austria for being the best Android app and it seems to be gaining adoption. Claudia Poepperl CEO of adaffix, the company behind Yellix, also told me some interesting things about usage.

Yellix launched first on Nokia/Symbian, also on Windows Mobile and then Android. She said that within a very short time Android was the largest usage segment, despite its tiny user base. Symbian was very small and Windows Mobile in the middle. The iPhone app has yet to come out. But restrictions on the iPhone mean that some of the features will not operate in the same way as they do on the other platforms.

___

Claudia Poepperl corrects me:

1. “If two Yellix mobile users are also on Facebook, when one of them calls the other they’ll see their Facebook profile pictures and recent status updates on the phone’s home screen.”

It is not necessary that both have YELLIX on their phone. It is enough if e.g. I have YELLIX on my phone and we are both friends on Facebook. Then I would see your status and pic when you call me. You would not need to have YELLIX on your phone.

2. regarding Symbian: it still has the largest YELLIX user base overall, but Android is catching up very very fast.

Local.com’s Patents Reviewed

October 11, 2009

Picture 2This past week Local.com announced that it was awarded a patent for Enhanced Directory Assistance, tied to advertising services. The press release summarizes the patent this way:

[T]he patent describes a system and method for maintaining a dynamic index for a telephone directory assistance system. The system enables advertisers to dynamically control whether a listing – and/or one or more of a keyword index, a localization index, and a position control index – associated with the advertiser is included in an EDA request, and in what position the associated listing is returned in response to the request.

This is associated with another ad-supported directory assistance-related patent previously issued in 2007 to Local.com (“methods and system for enhanced directory assistance using wireless messaging protocols”).

Despite some bullish predictions, the ad-supported directory assistance model has failed to live up to its promise. However the traditional DA business is in decline and carriers are seeking to squeeze more revenues from it. Accordingly there may be another round of effort to monetize conventional DA that may fall within the orbit of these Local.com patents.

Somewhat ironically carriers initially set up ad-supported competitors to their own DA businesses (i.e., Verizon’s 800-THE-INFO, AT&T’s 800-Yellowpages) but they have largely failed to promote them — due to their own corporate ambivalence about “cannibalizing” traditional DA. (See also this discussion of the impact of smartphones on 411 usage.)

In addition to the above, Local.com received a much broader patent regarding local search (“indexing web pages of a web site for geographical searchine based on user location”) but that “art” appears to be on a collision course with several others making similar, sweeping claims. At some point there will be litigation, but for now Local.com is building its portfolio and could, if successful, develop a healthy IP licensing business over time. The company is already licensing its IP to a number of companies. There are many “ifs” between here and there of course.

Vark Comes Out of Private Beta

June 28, 2009

Picture 17Ever since we wrote about Mosio in October of 2007 we’ve been watching and waiting for someone to really break-through with a human-powered mobile search utility that can archive scale. ChaCha and kgb to varying degrees have done that and represent a hybrid between traditional directory assistance and Web search; one can ask any question of a quasi-professional human in the background, while some query responses are automated via a database.

Yahoo! Answers uses community to answer questions but answers don’t show up in real time; although Yahoo!’s Marc Davis has told me that increasingly there are responses in near-real time from the community.

Twitter and Facebook have the potential to evolve or develop angles that enable them to be used as Q&A services — what I’ve called in the past “social DA.” But those use cases are not fully developed on either site.

Now Aardvark, which we can call an “answer community,” is trying to bring all these things together.

The rest of this post is on LMS.

Google Voice Not a Skype Killer — Yet

March 13, 2009

picture-11Early on I had a GrandCentral account but let it lapse. After the announcement of Google Voice yesterday I got back in. But it’s not exactly what I expected.

There are lots of nice call management features and the SMS integration is great. I had thought however that it might be a complete substitute for VoIP calling services like Skype or even Vonage. It’s not — at least right now. It’s not a telco substitute. (Perhaps if Google Talk is later integrated.) 

picture-91

I can turn my iPod Touch into a phone with Truphone and a WiFi connection. That’s been useful in several situations, though it sounds like my head is in a fishbowl. Google Voice offers free domestic calling and inexpensive international calls. But what it does is connect calls to an existing phone number:

picture-10

One must have an operating landline or mobile phone to use the service. Google Talk or Skype or other IM clients allow  you to make calls (usually with video) directly from the client. Skype and Truphone will also allow this on mobile handsets. Google Talk,  however, only allows calls within the network at the moment. 

If you use Google Voice with a mobile phone you’re still using minutes. Since most people have included long distance this doesn’t represent any savings. With a landline, you could in theory ditch your long distance service and make all those calls through Google Voice, connecting them to your local number (it’s similar to Jaxtr in that respect). International calling is where the value of this part of the service kicks in. Calling rates are quite inexpensive. I haven’t compared them to Skype however. 

I suspect that Google Talk will become integrated into Google Voice at some point so you’ll be able to make calls directly from the service. For now, however, this doesn’t threaten any of the incumbent telco or even VoIP services.

Free-411 Rolls Out Dial Directions Nationally

May 8, 2008

Jingle Networks’ 800-Free-411 for now is the “free DA” market leader. But it has been joined by a broad range of competitors:

  • 1-800-GOOG411 (Google)
  • 1-800-Call-411 (MSFT, Tellme powered)
  • 1-800-Yellowpages (AT&T)
  • 1-800-2ChaCha (”mobile answers”)
  • 1-800-The-Info (Verizon)
  • 1-800-555-Tell (Tellme)
  • 1-800-555-5555 (potentially)

This also doesn’t include the voice-powered (or operator-assisted) mobile applications:

  • Yahoo’s oneSearch with Vlingo
  • MSFT Live Search with voice
  • The Tellme client (a new version launches today for the Blackberry)
  • V-Enable’s FreeMobile411

There’s also the mobile Internet itself, which competes with DA in some cases. In the future, mobile social networks may also address some of the queries that might have gone to DA (e.g., category searches). Right now the latter is quite speculative however.

Against that backdrop Jingle needs to continue to develop, market and differentiate its service if it hopes to stay ahead of this increasing competition. One way it has sought to do that is by offering Dial Directions service, which as of today is now available nationally: any location to any other location (by address or intersection).

The rest of this post is on Local Mobile Search.

Free411 (Jingle) Sells Out — Ad Inventory

January 31, 2008

Jingle LogoIn a press release out this morning, Jingle Networks says that its sold out its sponsorship ad inventory:

“Jingle Networks, Inc., the leader in free voice search and operator of the 1-800-FREE411 directory service, today announced it has sold out its 2008 sponsorship inventory due to unprecedented advertiser growth among national and local brands. Clients such as McDonald’s, Earthlink and AMC Theaters have renewed their contracts and new companies including FordDirect have signed on with 1-800-FREE411 to reap the benefits of its unique and clutter-free platform.”

Jingle is the most widely used of the four big free-DA offerings: 1-800-Free-411, Goog411, AT&T’s 1-800-YellowPages, Microsoft’s/Tellme’s 1-800-Call-411.

Jingle’s sponsorship inventory consists of typically CPM ads that play at the “top” of a call. Jingle now reports more than 20 million calls per month. According to our estimate, there are roughly 5.4 billion DA calls made annually in the United States. Approximately 2.3 billion originate from landlines and 3.1 billion are from mobile phones — and the volumes continue to shift toward mobile.

The rest of this post is at LocalMobileSearch.

___

In the comments below former Jupiter analyst and founder of real estate vertical homethinking Niki Scevak makes the point that there’s potential reason for concern here and that the company needs more (calls) inventory to keep growing.

IYPs Can Compete with Search (Apparently)

January 7, 2008

RHD put out a press release this morning that says its DexKnows consumer destination is the leader in its 14-state print market, according to comScore:

[I[ts comprehensive, feature-rich local search site, remained the top local search site in the 14-state area* where Dex is the official print directory for Qwest. According to comScore, DexKnows.com (formerly DexOnline.com) was the most used local search site in this area in terms of number of searches, accounting for 24 percent of all searches during the quarter. This marks the fifteenth consecutive quarter DexKnows.com led the market.

I have some issues with how comScore segments and measures the “local search” market — it uses a conservative methodology and separates “local search” and “IYP” into two distinct categories. But taking these numbers at face value it shows how the combined power of print and online — together with some traditional branding and marketing — can be a successful strategy for traditional media companies vs. online-only competitors.

DexKnows is supported by Local Matters’ destination search platform. In addition, Dex is testing a voice search service (free DA) using CallGenie’s platform and technology.

The Coming ‘GOOG-411′ Button on GE Phones

January 4, 2008

Goog411According to a pre-CES release from Thomson:

Thomson and Google have partnered to help consumers save money on 411 business information calls by integrating the first ever one-touch, auto-dial GOOG-411 button into many of its latest GE-branded DECT 6.0™ Interference Free phones for 2008. One of many new innovative features for consumers from Thomson, GOOG-411 is Google’s free, voice-activated, business directory assistance service, and the GOOG-411 button will be incorporated on more than a dozen GE phones, which will be available in April.

This moves GOOG411 into new realms and is being positioned, interestingly, not only as an alternative to conventional 411 but as an alternative to “the phone book”:

“While some people still use the ‘phone book,’ most traditional paper versions these days are remarkably incomplete and do not fit today’s fast paced lifestyle,” said Tom Bratton, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Thomson Consumer Network Solutions.

This is something of a marketing coup for Google to help build awareness of the GOOG411 service, which will eventually be ad-supported. Google has done some uncharacteristic consumer marketing for its service (mostly outdoor) in selected areas, but it remains largely unknown, according to both LocalMobileSearch and comScore data:

  • In a recent LocalMobileSearch survey, conducted on behalf of V-Enable, 76.3% of respondents (n=671) said they had never used “one of the free alternatives to carrier-provided 411 directory assistance”
  • Data compiled by comScore for Jingle Networks found that only 7%-8% of users had “heard of or used” GOOG-411 “in the past 30 days” (based on three survey waves in 2007). By contrast, 17%-18% said they had “heard of or used” Jingle’s 1800-Free-411 service

As Dan Miller says in a post at LocalMobileSearch, “Single button access, offered by Google and others, are poised to change long established user behaviors, like dialing 411 or longer, toll-free access numbers. This is a major threat to incumbent, fixed line DA providers that generated something like $3.5 billion in highly profitable revenue from roughly 4 billion calls last year.”

Survey Data from comSore on Free 411 Usage

December 14, 2007

Over at Local Mobile Search I write about comScore survey data, commissioned Jingle, that offers some insight into the current state of consumer awareness and usage of free 411 directory assistance alternatives. The major services, with more to come, currently include:

  • 1-800-Free-411 (Jingle Networks)
  • 1-800-GOOG-411 (Google)
  • 1-800-Call-411 (Microsoft, built on Tellme)
  • 1-800-YellowPages (AT&T)

The data show relatively low awareness of these services, which is the principal challenge they face. (Consumers also remain largely ignorant of how much they pay for mobile 411.) But once they become aware and try these services they typically won’t return to traditional 411.

Local and Mobile Upgrades from MSFT

October 16, 2007

Live SearchMy broad overview, mostly excerpting the press release is on SEL and a mobile-specific discussion is at LocalMobileSearch. From a mobile perspective, the “headline” is the introduction of Live Search 411 (1-800-CALL-411).

More Goog411 Billboards Revealed

October 4, 2007

Danny Sullivan took this picture in San Francisco of a Goog411 billboard sitting on top of an Ask billboard:

Goog411

Yesterday driving down the street in Oakland I also saw a Goog411 billboard. This appears to be a bona fide effort by Google to expose the service to people and generate usage.

Again, what’s remarkable with this is that Google is actually doing consumer marketing (a first) for a product and not relying entirely on word of mouth.

I’m wondering where similar marketing is from Microsoft’s Tellme.

More on Goog411 Billboards

September 28, 2007

The image “http://www.google.com/goog411/images/goog411-logo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Here’s more, including images of the locations, from Mike Blumenthal on Google’s 411 outdoor ads push. What’s amazing is that Google is doing consumer marketing for one of its products.

This is something that hasn’t been done as visibly before. (Checkout had some online marketing.) I would imagine Google will be looking to see if there’s a spike in usage from the areas where the placements are. That will be somewhat difficult to measure in SF (unless they’re brought down and traffic before and during compared). But in other areas, where there is likely to be less awareness, performance will be more immediately obvious.

At the bottom of his piece, Mike asks the following questions:

The real questions for me are:

  • When will they add individuals to the Goog-411 service?
  • When will they monetize the service?
  • How will they monetize the service without it being intrusive and simultaneously adding value to the interaction?

My answers:

  • The majority of 411 calls are for businesses, so it’s not necessarily critical. But Jingle (800 Free411) does residential it so it’s fairly easy to add the data.
  • When the usage passes a certain threshold it WILL be monetized
  • How will they monetize it? One way that answers Mike’s concerns is with relevant ads at the bottom of SMS messages (send by text). This is being done already elsewhere; 118118 in the UK is an example.
  • It could also be a distribution channel for radio/audio ads if the ads are highly targeted.
  • They could also tease ads (whether audio or coupons) and have an opt-in to accept. (i.e., “Press one to listen” or receive by text message.)

More Goog411 Outdoor Ads Spotted

September 24, 2007

The image “http://www.google.com/goog411/images/goog411-logo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I was told over the weekend of a second outdoor Goog411 ad in San Francisco (and here’s a taxi ad). It will be interesting to see how aggressive this push becomes and whether Jingle Networks responds in any way with more consumer marketing, which the company has been doing to varying degrees, of its own.

This is a fairly dramatic departure for Google (assuming it is a bona fide ad campaign to build awareness for the voice search service), which has typically relied on word-of-mouth to promote its products.

Here’s the new Goog411 page (complete with instructional video, also distributed on YouTube). “It’s really simple, and it’s free.”

___

As an aside, Google is getting very smart about creating videos for most of these new product offerings. The videos are engaging and much more accessible and complete than FAQs. Yahoo! something similar with social bookmarking site delicious (via Search Engine Journal).

Goog411 Billboard Spotted

September 19, 2007

Mike Blumenthal took the shot in upstate New York:

The image “http://searchengineland.com/ScreenHunter_724.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Jingle had been promoting itself with outdoor and radio advertising. But this is a segment that has quickly become crowded and competitive (so expect some more consumer marketing).

Voice search will be a nearly ubiquitous interface option in the near future, blurring the distinction between some of the different services. Microsoft, for example, is starting to make a big push with Tellme as the voice front end on different mobile search options.

I also did a short post on this at SEL.

CallGenie Behind New 1-800-CallDex

September 5, 2007

Yellow pages publisher R.H. Donnelley (RHD) is testing a new voice local mobile search product, 1-800-CallDex, in four U.S. markets: Denver, Phoenix, Spokane (WA) and Tucson. It offers a suite of services powered by CallGenie’s Enhanced Voice Directory platform.

CallGenie also provides voice search and enhanced DA services to Verizon, Yellow Pages Group (Hello Yellow) and Say Hello.

The rest of this post is at LocalMobileSearch.

Future of Mobile DA: Change or Die

August 29, 2007

The image “http://www.metropcs.com/externaltemplate/images/metro_logo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.V-Enable and the recently IPO’d mobile carrier MetroPCS announced a deal for enhanced directory assistance that offers an innovative pricing dimension. MetroPCS users receive access to “unlimited,” enhanced DA at certain “premium,” monthly spending levels (there are no contracts for MetroPCS): $45 and $50:

Ask all you want with Metro411 Unlimited Directory Assistance. You will hear the number, AND you will receive a text message containing the name and phone number you requested. Receive residential, business and government phone listings for anywhere in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico when you dial 411 from your MetroPCS phone

While those “premium” spending levels are generally easy to hit in normal carrier service plans, the “unlimited local and long distance” nature of MetroPCS means that the company has to provide other reasons to bump up to higher-priced plans. (MetroPCS offers all-you-can-eat plans at $30, $35, $40, $45 or $50, with different options and services.)

The rest of this post is at Local Mobile Search.

Voice-Driven Local Search on the iPhone

August 24, 2007

iphoneVoiceSignal hacked the iPhone to create voice-based local search on the device. That’s frankly what’s missing from the iPhone (more than Outlook support, etc.).

More at LocalMobileSearch.

Cage Match: GOOG411 vs. Dial Directions

August 15, 2007

The image “http://www.dialdirections.com/images/directions_logo.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I met the other day Amit Desai of Dial Directions (347-328-4667). In my two conversations with Amit (the former CTO of Voxify), he’s made some very strong claims about the sophistication of the startup’s speech platform and capabilities. He also gave me some “roadmap” information that may take the service way beyond “free DA.” But for now that’s what the service is, with point-to-point directions (not to diminish it or the Free DA category in any way).

I decided to informally test GOOG411 vs. Dial Directions across category searches and a few name-in-mind searches to see how they comparatively performed. The outcome was something of a split decision.

The rest of this post is at LocalMobileSearch.

‘Say Hello’ to Local Voice Portals

August 1, 2007

The image “http://www.callgenie.com/logos/callGeni_logo_large.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Toronto-based Call Genie announced that the first of many prospective metropolitan “America Say Hello” voice portals will be launched in Jacksonville, FL, in conjunction with Morris Communications’ Florida Times Union. The service will be called “Jax Say Hello” and will include “free” (advertiser supported) access to residential, business and government telephone listings, augmented by proven, high-volume information services, like sports scores, weather, movie theater listings and selected classified advertising (cars and real estate).

Read the rest of Dan Miller’s analysis of the announcement on LocalMobileSearch.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers