Scott Kliger hated 411 charges. A buck fifty for a phone listing? Hated it! His solution: Make it free—as in 1-800-FREE411. His Jingle Networks applied a new advertising model to an old database. "It's like Google for the phone," he says, "but instead of pay-for-click, it's pay-for-call." FREE411 plays targeted ads before the number you ask for. If you're looking for Martin's Bagels, for example, you may have to listen to an offer from Fred's Bagels first. Advertisers pay only when their number is selected—and callers never spend a dime.
Introduced last September, FREE411 has since seen its call volume grow by 30% weekly. Will the advertising revenue follow? To find out, we made toll calls to three interested parties.
Dan Miller, senior analyst, Opus Research
"Jingle is very timely. A free service will accelerate the decline of fixed-line directory assistance and encourage wireless directory assistance to enhance its services."
Michael McKnight, frequent 411 user
"I'd stopped using 411 completely; the charges add up. FREE411 is great. Would I select an advertiser? Depends on the deal."
Jim Smith, director of media relations, Verizon
"God bless and good luck. Customers want accurate numbers quickly—and if they perceive anything as slowing them down, they get irritated."
A version of this article appeared in the April 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.