Free directory assistance services, funded by pay-per-call ads, have been rolled out by a number of entrepreneurial companies, telcos and Yellow Pages publishers. But now comes The Florida Times-Union, which quietly rolled out a local version of Say Hello Inc. (formerly America Says Hello) four weeks ago. The FTU, which has a daily circulation of 169,000, is based in Jacksonville. It is the flagship for Morris Communication, the lead investor in Say Hello’s initial $1.2 million funding.
Newspapers may have déjà vu when it comes to voice services, having generally lost money on audiotex services in the 1980s and early 1990s. But Say Hello hopes mobile access, better capabilities and a strong pay-per-call model will inspire them to take a second look.
If the FTU’s free DA service is successful, it is expected to serve as a prototype for other free DA services built in partnership with a network of newspapers and TV stations. By relying on their local sales and promotional capabilities, and their content, Say Hello CEO Jim Geddes says the company could launch deeper and cheaper than any other competitor – especially national competitors – at “half the capitalization.”
Say Hello features local area codes, as opposed to toll-free 800 numbers. As for content, Say Hello is integrating real estate and auto data feeds directly from The FTU and is also adding movie, sports and weather info. It hopes to work with other papers on the same basis. In addition to the newspaper’s data feeds, Say Hello provides White Pages from Nuance and Yellow Pages from a provider to be named later this week.
Geddes is appearing on a free DA panel I am moderating at our Directory Driven Commerce conference in Reston, Virginia, this September. Other execs on the panel come from V-Enable, Call Genie and Jingle Networks.