What’s not to love about free 411 calls? Jingle Networks, which operates 1-800-FREE411, says it has sold out its entire inventory of sponsorship ads for 2008. These are ten-second audio spots that you listen to before you get your free directory assistance from national sponsors like AMC Theaters, Earthlink, Cablevision, McDonald’s, Miller Brewing, and Nationwide. Jingle has actually sold only half of its inventory, though, since there are two ad spots per call—one for national sponsors and one for local/targeted ads. It is the first spot that is sold out. But selling half of your inventory for the year by the end of January is not a bad place to be. (The second ad spot is typically sold out one to two months in advance and more on a cost-per-call basis).
1-800-FREE411 is getting 20 million directory-assistance call a month, which is up 18 percent from last March. The company says that gives it a 6 percent market share of the 3.8 billion total 411 calls placed in the U.S. annually (up from 4 percent about a year ago). 1-800-FREE411 is more of a mobile and pure telephone play. It’s Website, where you can also get free directory numbers and is integrated with Skype, is basically an afterthought. Traffic to the site has declined from a peak of about 850,000 U.S. visitors a month a year ago to less than 100,000 a month, according to comScore. But then, you can get phone numbers on the Web simply by searching Google.
Parent company Jingle Networks has raised nearly $75 million in four rounds from First Round Capital, Goldman Sachs, IDG Ventures Boston, and Hearst.