Hilarious article in the LA Times this morning about how at&t (formerly SBC, formerly PacBell, formerly AT&T with big letters) is abandoning their automated time service on 853-1212 in California, active since 1948. Apparently, there are too many other ways to figure out the correct time. Funny, because I’ve always relied on the good old phone company to be the most reliable. No more. So much for public service. at&t (now rebranded with small letters) wants to free up the prefix “853” to regular subscribers.
What does this have to do with domainers, those guys who buy generic web names and place ads on them? Well, the most valuable domain names are those which get “natural traffic”, for example is a user types “creditreports” into their browser, and goes to creditreports.com. Valuable, because the domain owner doesn’t have to pay to drive users to the site. All ad revenue is pure profit.
How valuable is 853-1212? I’d be willing to bet that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have hard-wired into their brains to call 853-1212 whenever they need the time. Now they will be frustrated at the phone company (get it, at&t?). These callers represent free traffic. Why not run an ad-supported time service? If at&t had any brains, they’d sell off 853-1212 or lease it out on a revenue-share model. Some enterprising domainer could figure out how to run short radio-style ads before the service would speak the time.
Who’s the biggest, smartest domainer out there? Google, of course. They’re willing to try new things – they’ve already set up a free 411 service (try 1-800-GOOG411) – purely to learn how users search by voice for local businesses. Let some smart techie at Google play around with 853-1212.
The most difficult task of this entire venture? Finding who the right person among AT&T’s 301,840 employees who has the authority to sell this particular phone number. If you know who he or she is, please let me know!
L.A. Times, Consumer Confidential column on August 29, 2007 by David Lazarus:
Time of day calling it quits at AT&T