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Whats The 411? Free, Thats What

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Never pay for directory assistance again-or at least until some major communications company buys this thing and puts it to rest. Jingle Networks, Inc. has set up the first free nationwide consumer telephone directory assistance service by launching 1-800-FREE411.

The service was announced last week at the DEMOfall 2005 Conference, an industry forum for launching new technology and products. The service aims to capture part of the $8 billion collected annually by mobile phone companies, who charge between $0.75 to $3.49 per directory inquiry.

Callers listen to a 10-second advertising spot before receiving the requested listing. Advertisers benefit because the service is based solely on a pay-per-call advertising model, where advertisers only pay whenever they receive a phone call from a consumer who is ready to buy.

Further, according to CNet and Search Views, the highly locally targeted ads would be for the competitor of the requested business.

“The ad will most likely be for a competitor of whomever’s number they called for (Pizza Hut for Domino’s, etc.) and may include some sort of incentive or discount (order now and buy one get one free). Callers can press a button to change their minds mid-call and immediately be connected to the competitor instead,” writes Erin Bradley at Search Views.

Over 35,000 local and national merchants and service providers have signed up to advertise with the service, including 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Rescue Rooter, Entertainment Book, ServiceMagic (an IAC/InterActiveCorp Company), Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and Terminix.

“1-800-FREE411 is an exciting, and logical, place for ServiceMagic to reach consumers seeking to hire prescreened and customer-rated residential contractors,” said Craig Smith, Vice President of Business Development at ServiceMagic.com. “The service allows us to reach consumers at the exact time they are making a purchase decision and we only get charged when our phone rings.”

The executives involved in the new service are Scott Kilger (formerly of Excite@Home, MatchLogic, Narrative Communication Corp., Lotus Development, WordPerfect, and IBM), Tom Latinovich (ormerly of Sage Hill Partners, Excite@Home, and Farallon Investments), and Joshua Kopelman (founder of Half.com, Infonautics Corporation and TurnTide).

The brains behind the operation seem to have a history of creating successful start-ups and then selling them to larger entities, according to the Free411 website. So enjoy it before MCI decides it can’t afford to lose the $3.49 per inquiry they’ve been extorting from customers.

Whats The 411? Free, Thats What
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