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White Directory Publishers, a division of Hearst Holdings, announced a marketing partnership with Jingle’s 1-800-FREE411 making it the first independent publisher to resell sponsorship products on the 1-800-FREE411 media channel.

The deal with White Directory comes on the heels of Jingle’s recent blockbuster announcement that Idearc Media would place its information on Jingle’s 1-800-FREE411 network and open opportunities for its local advertisers to take advantage of the extended selling opportunities via free directory assistance advertising.

In an Advisory penned by Matthew Booth covering AT&T’s entry into the free DA space and its impact, Jingle’s CEO was quoted as saying: “Free DA currently makes up 3 percent of the Directory Assistance calls that are made today, and is on pace to serve 130 million calls this year. In 2007, Garrick projects that 300 million free DA calls will be made, giving it roughly 10 percent of total DA usage.”

The current deal with Idearc was a boon to Jingle in that the agreement to carry’s pay-per-click advertisers on Jingle’s media network will allow it to increase its 2007 per-call revenues above the industry average of US$0.05 per call to an estimated US$0.08 per call, according to an upcoming Kelsey Group DA and mobile forecast. Adding more resellers in the form of feet-on-the-street directory reps should help increase the revenue development of Jingle’s network.

While the current free DA market is short on revenues but long on call volume, The Kelsey Group is forecasting the growth pattern for free DA based on anticipated volume growth from paid DA to free DA to rise from US$14 million in 2007 to US$426 million by 2012.

The fact that Jingle is partnering with Idearc and a major independent directory publisher shows its willingness to compete with AT&T and Google not only to continue its dominance of free DA call volume but also to create a direct sales force though these partnerships. Jingle’s challenge remains determining how to monetize the call volume it has created to generate revenue growth. The deal with White Directory is a tentative first step in creating a local sales force through a directory partnership to resell advertising on its media network in exchange for the use of its platform and a revenue share for distribution. Jingle has a similar deal in place with Weblistic and rumored trials in place with selected CMRs, all with the same goal of increasing paid advertisements on its network.

If the experiment with White Directory provides needed traction with selling local businesses on free DA sponsorship advertising, look for more deals like this with independent publishers to be inked in the next 12 to 18 months.

This subject will also be covered in more detail at The Kelsey Group’s upcoming DDC conference in Reston, Virginia. The panel is titled “Free DA, Enhanced DA: Where Is the Winning Play for Publishers?

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