888-TELSURF Allows Internet Access Over Phone

TelSurf Networks Inc. will go national by April with 888-TelSurf, an audio browser that delivers personalized, on-demand Internet content and e-mail over the telephone.

Currently live in Los Angeles, the toll-free service allows registered subscribers to conduct e-commerce and all content searches across the Internet through voice-activated commands. Users issue simple commands like “Read new e-mail,” “Go to Yahoo” or “Add to shopping cart” for the service to navigate to the requested Web page.

“This is an Internet in-between,” said Ken Guy, vice president of strategic marketing at TelSurf, Westlake Village, CA. “Basically, its for those that already have Internet access but don’t have it when they’re mobile, or with friends or at grandma’s. Now you can do it over the phone.”

Voice-related Internet access is likened by industry observers to be the next frontier for expanding online reach beyond computers. The Kelsey Group, Boston, estimates the market for voice-activated Internet access equipment to hit $5 billion by 2003.

888-TelSurf does not require a computer, Internet familiarity or typing experience. The real-time service is specifically targeted to mobile consumers, technology-averse seniors, teen-agers and college students, travelers, or visually impaired persons with cell phone or fixed-line telephone access.

The service also will be pushed to Web portal operators, wireless and fixed-line carriers, and company intranets that need to deliver audio Internet access to employees, customers or users.

Revenue for 888-TelSurf will generate through interactive audio ads that play over the telephone while the user waits for the Internet to respond to Web site page requests. Consumers who don’t want to listen to commercials pay 6 cents a minute for access.

To participate, consumers must dial 888-TelSurf or visit its site at 888TelSurf.com and fill out a detailed questionnaire. The registrant will then be given another toll-free number to use each time he wants Internet access.

The user profile data will be given to advertisers to run focused audio ads. While the ad is playing, consumers can ask for additional information, be routed to a sales associate with the advertiser, e-mail and even place on order online over the telephone. Advertisers can also tweak their campaigns based on instant feedback.

“This is kind of advertising heaven in a sense that you can target interactive advertising to the appropriate demographic and you pay for only what that person hears,” Guy said.

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