March 4, 2008

Dismantling the audiotext system

It's only a matter of days before I'll pull the plug on The Flint Journal's audotext system. Seriously, we have still been delivering information by phone.

But despite the number of calls to hear the lottery numbers, the weather, the horoscopes, updates on soap operates, it is time to pull the plug.

I know I was the last one to care, and I gave up at least 15 months ago when it became clear no one was interested in selling sponsorships with the hot, sexy Internet grabbing all the attention.

I've let it limp along - 22 phone lines feeding into a computer that takes an information feed and delivers it upon the request of four digits. (Hey, I wanted to eliminate some phone lines, but we were waiting to do that when we moved the system to the "new" computer room.)

Yes, I know that some of the lottery numbers were popular only among those playing numbers.

Yes, I know that all of the information is available somewhere online. (Do you know there are still some who don't use computers? I'd be happy to direct all the calls that will come in to you, if you'd like.)

It just seems ironic to me that when the population has more portable phones then ever, we are pulling out of the service.

And we are one of the last newspapers to do that. In fact, we may be one of the last businesses to do that. We looked for a place to send folks to - just a few years back every phone directory in the area had a similar service. Today, none of the four in our area. (I did find one 800 service over on 1-800-555-TELLME)

I remember when we once had numerous vendors striving for attention, for our business. We'd meet and share ideas for using these phone-computer systems for contests, polls, and delivery of all sorts of information.

ZDNet calls it A voice response application that allows users to enter and retrieve information over the telephone. See IVR.

There are a few vendors and systems out there ... just no one seems to be aggressively trying to deliver the information via a newspaper or media company.


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