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Audio Web Portals: The Ultimate Re-gift

  |  November 23, 2000   |  Comments

Don't be fooled by pretty wrapping paper. These so-called audio portals have been around for years, and they look an awful lot like toll-free numbers.

You've heard of the term "re-gift," right? That's when your mom gets the 13-piece Ginsu knife set for Christmas from Aunt Luetta, and you end up receiving the same gift (wrapped in brightly colored tissue paper with a pretty red bow on it) as a wedding present two years later. This term, "re-gifting," not only applies to presents, but to the technology world as well.

I was discussing the new audio web portal technology with a colleague the other day, who was raving about how it would be the next hottest new technology, after wireless hits the mass market. He explained how you could call up Tellme.com and get stock quotes, sports scores, restaurant information, etc., by scrolling through a menu with just the sound of your voice. I'll admit that I'm the first to hop on just about any bandwagon and got caught up in the hype, momentarily.

My colleague went on to say that soon there will be audio web sites to check on your flight information, to do your banking, etc. This is where I was wrenched back into reality. My reply was, "Soon? Isn't that called 1-800-IFLYSWA and the 800 number you use for banking?" This new concept of an audio portal looks a lot like customer service toll-free phone numbers to me. I was dumbfounded. He was so enamored with the "new technology," he completely missed my point and retorted, "Yeah, but you don't have to talk to anyone, and you can get the info right away."

So how do you personalize the audio web experience? Wouldn't you add human interaction? I'd say that toll-free numbers are the next generation of the audio web portal, so why would we want to take a step backward? If I want flight information, I could call the airline and talk to a real, live person to get flight information, and maybe while I'm at it, I could book that fare to Chicago for Thanksgiving that I have been meaning to do for a month. If I want my bank account information, I call the 800 number and go through the automated process. If I have a problem, I just press "0" for a representative to answer any questions I might have about my account balance. And while I'm at it, I'll ask the rep about the differences between the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. Now that is a personalized audio portal experience.

I personally like to get a real person on the phone, not only when I have a problem, but for mundane tasks as well. Ever find yourself logging on to the web just to look something up when it would have taken you half the time if you just picked up a phone and called someone for the information? Maybe OnStar was way ahead of its time. Not only do you get an "audio web site" for daily and local information, but you also get to interact with someone.

These so-called "audio portals" have been around for years, and they look suspiciously like toll-free numbers. Looks like someone is trying to pull something over on us by rewrapping this "technology" and giving it a fancy new name. This is the ultimate repackaging story of the decade. Don't be fooled by the pretty wrapping paper and the bow.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Ellis

Michelle Ellis is Director of Account Planning at M2K, a top-100 interactive agency. She started her career over a decade ago focusing on the retail and business-to-business industries. M2K specializes in interactive marketing solutions for clients, including strategic positioning, media planning and buying, offline and online creative, web site design, intranets, and extranets.

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