AT&T just announced the roll out of ad-sponsored directory assistance in California for business listings. The article didn't say whose technology they are using – could be home grown.
I think they have a number of things in their favor with this launch:
- Trusted brand
- Could eventually add a button to the phone (directory assistance is a pretty common activity on phones)
- No new infrastructure required to sell local ads – they just take a cut (probably, I don't know the business terms)
- People have the option of either a paid or free service so AT&T wins either way (though one may be more profitable than the other)
- Consumer awareness and education (my mom IM'ed me just two weeks ago and asked me how to access directory assistance on a cell phone – and, yes, she's the one I blogged about two years ago that keeps a phone book in her car)
- Doing ads well such that callers don't regret simply paying for directory assistance