Jingle Jumps Back to Bay State—From Silicon Valley
Jingle Networks, the company behind the advertising-supported directory assistance service 1-800-FREE411, is returning to its Massachusetts roots. The venture-funded startup, which was founded in Burlington, MA, in 2005, announced yesterday that it’s moving its corporate headquarters to Bedford, MA, after several years in Menlo Park, CA.
The move coincides with a change in leadership at the company. Former CEO George Garrick has ceded the top spot in the company to founder and former CTO Scott Kliger, a veteran of rich-media Internet advertising firm Narrative Communications and Excite@Home. Garrick, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and will remain on Jingle’s board, said in a statement that the company needs a CEO who is based on the East Coast, where most of its technical team is located.
Along with its change of headquarters, Jingle announced that the 1-800-FREE411 service reached “per-call profitability” in the second quarter of this year. It’s not clear exactly what that means, or how close the company is to actual profitability. But it appears to be an indication that Jingle is earning more for the 10-second audio advertisements that each caller must listen to before getting their listing than it costs to host a call.
Jingle said that in the next quarter, it would pass the 500-million-call mark and serve its 1 billionth advertisement. Since its creation, the company has collected almost $75 million in funding from the likes of Hearst and Goldman Sachs; investors seem excited by its business model, which is to undermine the existing providers of 411 service (who charge about $1.25 per call) and to set up a “voice ad network” that could deliver audio ads to any company that regularly keeps large numbers of callers on hold.
In that respect, Jingle Networks is competing directly with another Massachusetts company, North Adams-based VoodooVox, which is building what it calls an “in-call network” that functions similarly to an online advertising network. In place of banner ads on a website, the company inserts audio spots into the “call streams” of its “publishers,” meaning companies with high call volumes. “That’s why we say phone calls are the new page views,” the company says on its website. The response rate for in-call audio ads—the analog of the click-through rate on Web ads—is 12 percent, far higher than the rate for most online ads, according to VoodooVox.