Telecom PR: Who Says Pipes Need to Be Dumb?


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Disclosure: Right out of college, I went to work for an enormous telecom company, where I was introduced personally to jaw-dropping bureaucracy. Things have no doubt changed a lot since then, but as telecom and tech giants increasingly compete against each other for consumers’ connectivity addiction, I can’t help but look at my old industry and wonder: why can’t you guys be more like Google?

That giant’s real genius was in finding a way to provide an incredibly useful service cheap (well, free) while making obscene amounts of money effectively selling the information their free service allowed them to collect. It’s actually an increasingly rare mistake to think of Google as a search engine — it’s really a data company whose sophisticated information management model mines your activity for profit opportunities. In other words, they have a search pipeline, and when you use it, Google’s real customers pump up the company’s profit margin. Ingenious.

But how exactly could the telecom industry be modeling itself on Google? How about by embracing the asset the industry has tried so hard to “grow” beyond — that pipeline of access between customers and everything they now can’t live without. Why is there so much focus on not being “just a dumb pipe,” when providing a portal can net you so much valuable information?

Sophisticated back office systems capable of cataloguing consumers’ connected activity are already in place, but as far as I can tell, no telecom giant has even considered using that information externally — that is, becoming a data company that, like Google, provides a low-cost public service to enable high-profit private sales. In an industry facing skyrocketing demands for infrastructure investment and simultaneous public dissatisfaction with prices, why not change the model and make money off of folks who are happy to pay?

There are any number of possible models, but the one that occurred to me yesterday as I walked downtown was an app-based version allowing highly targeted advertising via my smart phone in exchange for a break on my monthly bill. I’d install that app to save money and get notified when I walk by a bookstore having a sale, or hit lunchtime and wonder who’s having the best daily special. As with Google, ads would be based on me — my location, my interests, even my download history — turning what could be obnoxious into a helpful service. And advertisers would delight in micro-targeted mobile reach — a combination of intense localism and constant interconnectivity.

Customer: Lower monthly bill, targeted advertising

Provider: Happier customer, and new — potentially explosive — dynamic revenue stream

Is it just me, or would that be a win-win situation?

That pipe, then, isn’t dumb unless it chooses to be. And that choice may be likely, given the telecom giants’ longstanding reputation for responding to opportunity at the speed of mud. But just maybe those market pressures — 4G, smart phones, economic pain for consumers — will push a few behemoths to radically reconsider how they make money and off of whom. The opportunity is knocking — unless Google gets there first.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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