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"Click", "Is someone listening in on your extension?"

Pudding Media would like to do for your phone calls what Google AdWords does for your inbox: make it free, by giving advertisers access to you during your call.  They accomplish this magic by listening in on the call for specific keywords, and then pushing the advertising back to a PC based on what you're talking about. 

Sound a little big brotherish?  Yup.  Will people do it?  Bet on it!  Today's web surfer willingly lets Google read his or her inbox, surrenders a cookied click trail to whatever site asks, and walks the downtown streets under the unblinking stare of thousands of surveillance cameras.  Letting Pudding Media eavesdrop on calls just won't seem that scary. 

Yeah, it's probably not going to be a compelling proposition to start.  The likelihood is that it will be a little clunky, and people cautious.  But sure as water flows down hill, we're going to have advertising on our telephones… relevant, contextually targeted advertising. 

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Mark Goldberg September 24, 2007, 2:05 pm

    As I wrote in my posting on Puddingmedia – there is an interesting privacy issue that arises since there are two people involved in the phone call. The Puddingmedia subscriber may have consented to the eavesdropping, but as the recipient of such a call, how do we get an opportunity to provide our consent?

  • Richard Sprague September 24, 2007, 3:39 pm

    No question, people will be happy to exchange phone privacy for a free call, but what a low click-through proposition for advertisers. Who's going to interrupt their phonecall — an interactive, real-time experience — to view an ad?

  • Alec September 24, 2007, 5:36 pm

    It's an interesting point, Mark. Conceptually the idea of advertising in email is identical, though. The sender has no control over what tool the receiver uses to read the mail, and in fact lots of people use GMAIL.

  • Alec September 24, 2007, 5:37 pm

    That may be the biggest flaw in the whole scheme Richard. At the moment it's dependent on people using PC telephony for their phone calls. With a big enough screen built into the phone, though, that may not be an issue.

  • Peter Childs September 25, 2007, 3:09 am

    Two issues need to be addressed for this to be successful – the ads have to be relevant and they have to be easily ignored so that they don't dominate the experience.

    On the relevance side I have a hard time believing that Speech recognition is at the point where it can have a large speaker independent vocabulary of keywords to produce relevant ads. Hitting a single key work – or even several – is not going to give a good sense of context. This is made more difficult given that VoIP and (cell phones for that matter) have a habit of mangling speech by adding echo and clips if they, the network or the background environment are not ideal.

    The other issue is obtrusiveness. Googles innovation has been to get decent ad density (ads/page) while being easy to ignore if one chooses. That said the ads are embedded in the application so are always accessible. As I understand with Pudding the application (talking) is totally separated from ad delivery (PC or possibly mobile device). One has to make a conscious decision to view the ads – so their presentation is critical – especially if they are going to get enough ad density to deliver any behavioral indications back to the advertiser. Without this they will be at the bottom end of the revenue/impression – and that’s not terribly lucrative – especially as I expect that the speech recognition is not cheap to implement per caller.

    Conceptually it's an intriguing idea – but with the cost of calls dropping, the inherent privacy issues and the problems presenting enough contextual ads with a behavioral outcome it’s difficult to see this as finding anything but a niche following.

  • omfut September 25, 2007, 9:29 pm

    Couple of things that needs to be addressed here
    – Any voice calls involves two parties, not sure if the other person would be interested in hearing the ad during the call.
    – How would the voice recognization system understand different languages other than english.

  • Shai Berger September 26, 2007, 8:25 am

    I think there is a bigger picture here. What if Pudding could really deliver useful information to us during a phone call? Routing your call "through the cloud" brings access to massive processing power and the terabytes of information that are online today.

    Once we become comfortable that the cloud is a 3rd party on our call, a world of possibilities opens up.

    Alec (and others) have brought up the parallel to Gmail. Consider: Gmail exposes me to ads in exchange for free email service. But, I don't use Gmail to save money. In fact, I have email options available to me that are zero-cost and ad-free. I use Gmail because I like having all of my email in the cloud, available from any computer and searchable.

    Cloud-routing of phone calls is ultimately going to improve the calling experience. If it's done right you will *want* to make your calls through the cloud and it won't be about saving money at all.

    Peter: VoodooVox, which is doing something similar, claims an astounding click-thru rate of 12%. Even if you discount that by 10x, it's still not bad.

    Omfut: 1) The ads are in the browser, not in the audio. 2) Pudding asks you for your "main" language during sign-up.

    More on this at my shiny new blog … http://www.shaiberger.com

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