Blog Post

Guessing Google’s VoIP Plan

In my Business 2.0 story, Google Net, I outlined the how’s and why’s of Google’s dark fiber & WiFi plans, and in the accompanying graphic highlighted some of the “bandwidth hungry applications” the company may have on deck. On of them was Voice. I wrote Google could “use VOIP technology to dial phone numbers that appear in local search results.”

Since the story first made the rounds, a few new developments. Google released Google Talk, its voice-enabled IM client based on Jabber platform. And earlier this week there was news that Google was experimenting with selling offline ads. Yannick Laclau, discovered something interesting in an article about AHS systems, the company featured in the Google experimental ads.

“It’s a lot of exposure for cheap,” he said, adding that Google is “doing a ton of tracking on this. They’re using their own 1-800 numbers on this, and it forwards to our line.” The Internet addresses of the online versions of the ads also redirect traffic through Google servers.

As I hinted earlier, this is a pay-per-call model that could be the “VoIP” play for Google. A lot of start-ups have already started mucking around with it. The leader in this space is Ingenio, which has a deal with AOL. The pay-per-call results typically make more money for sites that use pay-per-call model, and this includes various publications and portals. Another start-up that has jumped into the fray is Insider Pages, an Idea Lab company. Jupiter’s Gary Stein has some thoughts on this trend, as he tries to come-up with reasons for why Microsoft bought Teleo.

We know that local merchants would rather pay for a call than a click; having pay-per-call as a product is pretty much a must for anyone looking to get into the local directory business.

I guess, as Voice-over-IM tries to find its footing, the first application that becomes popular is this “pay for call” feature. Yannick sums it up nicely when he writes:

So could all the talk about Google’s VoIP plans really be all about extending its advertising franchise into pay-per-call, rather than offering plain old consumer minutes, a la everyone else?

An obvious, simple and practical observation!

PS: folks – this will be a constantly updated post. I am still thinking about this a bit more. If you have any thoughts, do let me know.

40 Responses to “Guessing Google’s VoIP Plan”

  1. I think this will put pay per call, cpa, adsense out of business or at least give it a run for it’s money. It’s called Pay Per Play and is the newest form of online advertising giving webmasters the opportunity to generate revenue from their websites with one BIG difference.

    You get paid for EVERY visitor that visits and they don’t even have to click on any ads or anything. All webmasters have to do is insert a piece of java script code like adsense, and when visitors enter a page that has the code, a five second audio is played automatically and the webmaster gets paid.

    I think this is going to be the biggest thing since adsense exploded onto the scene because the advertisers that are lined up to start advertising are huge multi nation corporations that will be bidding per play to have their audio played on your site.

    This is a new concept and all websites are being accepted with the exception of adult, hate or any other unethical topical websites. If you are interested in signing up, visit and fill out the form. It only takes about 2 minutes and most are automatically accepted.

    I don’t how long automatic acceptance will last so go there know and register while you can. I think pay per play will be huge and you will be doing yourself a huge disservice neglecting it.

    Goto now!

  2. Who can explain the relationship with VOIP, Inc. Voice one, etc and their beta with google from earlier this year. These guys are techno inventors, have all the stuff ready to go. Could google want to buy them and therefore own their own voip company? Elaborate?

  3. wow. you are prescient. google click-to-call

    google’s help section for advertisers for using something new: click-to-call. if someone wants to call the advertiser, google will connect them. sounds exactly like what you’re talking about. they may not be doing away with pay-per-click, but they’re certainly going into advertising over the phone.

  4. Om

    Nice post.

    While I wouldn’t rule out pay per call as being part of the equation, I think this is about location-based advertising.

    Wifi calls also gives them a free location feed. This can be used to tap into the long tail of offline merchant advertsing, just as they’ve exploited the long tail of online.

    More at MobHappy

    (If the link doesn’t work, search for Google’s Big Idea).

    I’d be intrigued to get your view.



  5. How does a $82B grow without cutting into its base?
    I think you hit on it with the pay to call!

    I think this is the reason they are getting into print and also text messaging via dodgeball and google sms. The person has to call up for the print to connect and they’ll connect to the advertiser. But they will provide a simple click with no need to enter a number for text messaging since they already have the person’s cell number. Now, if you take Google Talk with Skype, they can easily do click to call without a number for online ads also because they’ll have the Skype number.

    The click to call/VOIP method to connect with advertisers will be unifying factor as people are not searching. They aren’t killing their core base, but they are expanding into areas and growing into “the place to advertise anywhere”. The other reason to this is that they expand into other age demographics they normally may not get. I think text messaging is going to be the age demographic for really young kids. Print will go for much older people. Also note that cell phones and print are two areas that diversifies them out of just having the PC be the only source to make money. They’ll leverage the brand to grow into new mediums and age groups while retaining their core.

    If this idea work, they may well be the largest company in the world in a year.

    Anurag (Anu) Nigam

    PS. I am biased because my company is in the text messaging space.

  6. Unfortunately while a well written post of speculation, Google is not about to drop pay per click for pay per call..

    I have used ingenios pay per call advertising and conversion is dismal.

    I caqn understand this as my charge is set to $2.99 per minute.

    I am sure people will consider the pricing and go right back to PPC ads to find answers they want.


  7. Very interesting. One angle is that Free Conference Call ( has a business model based on providing the infrastructure that carries voice traffic, so it can make money from free conference calls. More broadly, Google’s move is shifting online attitudes to advertising (segmented, tailored, pay-for-results etc.) to the offline world. Broader musings on all this at:

  8. It seems pay-per-call are the immediate plans. There have been hints Google maybe getting into the cell phone game as well with the increasing potential of VoIP and WiMAX. Whether these two have any convergence is something that may be interesting to consider.

  9. Thank you for the post. The magnitude of this is mind bending. Fewer ads all over the place but more effective ads all over the place. I can’t see Googles VoIP getting past the Skype, Gizmo, etc. model of 2 cents per minute to call out. However, with more and more wireless handhelds the number of calls to “phones” will drop dramatically. Who needs a phone connected to the old system? Sure dual band cell phones will be common but land lines are dead.

  10. Venki Iyer

    I don’t buy into any connection between gtalk and pay-per-call (or click-to-call): click-to-call just requires client infrastructure (lessee – AIM, Yahoo, MSN, skype, any old voip client) – there is no reason to try home-cook this functionality as and of itself. I think it is just two goog projects having points of convergence.

  11. “If you have any thoughts, do let me know.”

    It’s all about observation and analytics. Having been involved deeply in analytics and close to Net Perceptions and their “Recommendation Engine” during my tenure at Vignette (which we OEM’ed and Amazon used for “People that have bought this book have also bought these ones.” We all know that Amazon has kept all their clickstream data and has petabytes of collected data on shopping behavior, purchases and — with their API exposed — to 3rd parties leveraging that data in new ways.

    Gmail, Google Maps, search history identified to a specific individual, blogging and now IM & talk, imagine the data being captured that can be matched with location awareness (i.e., IP address database matching) and it becomes pretty clear: Google is building an analytics platform that eventually will know more about me and my habits than I know myself.

    More on my recent post sparked by Google Talk’s debut:

  12. an easy extension (via XMPP or SIP) is to open up a secure multi-media link w./ the end user as/when they click on the ad and “talk live” – the call can now be subsidized by the ad-providers — sorta 1-GOOGLE-vendor where GOOG is a stand-in for 1-800 prefix…. and perhaps the premium-ad buyers can subsidize your VoIP to PSTN calling if you click on their ad — i.e. they give me an instant PIN usable for 60 minutes if i see their ad… it could be a very google-twist on call-in, call-out PSTN issue.