Hot Tip for Domainers: 853-1212

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

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4 Responses to Hot Tip for Domainers: 853-1212

  1. PAT SOUL says:

    It would be nice if I could set my watch or vcr to the correct time and not the (about) time………This is ridiculous that we can no longer get the “correct time” anymore………

  2. Nicole says:

    Yeah, I really do miss it, since the number is stuck in my brain for the rest of my life, I wish I could remember the numbers I need like that. By the way, does anyone remember the number you dialed to get that “party line”, in the ’80’s…that was always fun.

  3. William R. Cousert says:

    It’s been over two years since 853-1212 got canned and I still find myself reaching for the phone to call it.

    There HAS to be a way to bring it back. Maybe Microsoft? They own 800-555-TELL. This would be a great local number for that service.

  4. Here it is April of 2011 and I dial 853-1212 for the CORRECT Time and get a “disconnected” message instead. Typing the number into Google points here: I discover that my irreplaceable time service number was scrapped 4 years ago!

    Geeze: do I feel like Rip-van-Winkle! What a long freakin nap! What’d I miss?

    I don’t have a cell phone, and I am not in front of a computer all of the time: so I RELIED upon this service and its legendary “to the millisecond” accuracy (a couple of times a decade at least ;p ). (Especially when I NEEDED Accuracy!)

    I dumped at&t last month for a local/long distance phone from my Cable TV provider and saved big bucks. And finding out this bit of sad news today makes me very happy that I canned their crappy (dis-)service forever last month: and I hereby resolve to NEVER subscribe to ANY at&t service ever again!

    When they were AT&T they were like a monolith: a rock of Gibraltar. Then they splintered and fragmented and spun off and sub-divided until today they have no solidity: a pile/puddle of stinking sinking quicksand!

    They HAVE shot themselves in the foot! You are Right: that number is solid gold! and they are wasting it. (retards)

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