More and more, internet users turn to the phone

The trend toward giving the internet an old-fashioned phone link is accelerating, as two deals this week will give digital voice technology a higher profile.

Portal site has announced a strategic partnership with, a live-voice community site that gives users answers to questions over the phone. About's chairman Scott Kurnit said the exclusive partnership with expands About's current one-to-one email question-and-answer platform to include real-time communication via the phone. Visitors to About will have the opportunity to ask questions of the more than 700 Guides and 7,000 affiliated "experts" on, or from members. For example, if an About visitor needs help with a tax form, he or she can dial in a question through An About expert will be connected to consumers when a visitor clicks the "Call Now" icon with the green phone integrated into that expert's page. Additionally, topic-relevant links integrated throughout the About site will allow visitors to get live answers from existing KeenSpeakers -- those who have made themselves available to provide answers on for a per-minute fee. "We've built the premier network for facilitating topic specific information on thousands of subjects, and this partnership is another example of our ability to bring users the information they need, when they need it and the way they want it," says Kurnit. In terms of major brands turning to phone lines, Budget Rent a Car has signed a deal with SoundBite Communications to use phone lines to market two campaigns to SoundBite users, "Perfect Drive" and "Fastbreak."

A brief lead-in advertisement mentions one of the programs, with an option for consumers to press a button to hear an extended ad and learn more about Budget's rewards programs. Soundbite enables consumers and businesses to use their phone like email. By advertising on the service, advertisers such as Budget are able to customize advertisements and better interact with interested consumers who want to quickly respond to an ad. A spokesperson for Soundbite said the company expects to sign more interactive deals with internet marketers soon.


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