There’s this 800 number, 800-555-TELL, which one can call and receive many kinds of information (news, stock quotes, lottery info, travel info, sports scores, even driving directions!, etc.). It’s a toll free call and there is no advertising whatsoever. So how does this make sense for them financially?
At the very least they get your phone number when you call and can sell that information to marketers along with the type of information that you are interested in. At the worst, they can use your phone number to automatically sign you up to a subscription to their service which is charged to your phone bill.
Call them and ask.
“One word - Volume.”
From their FAQ:
Can you call from a pay phone?
that way you could get the free info without getting on telemarketing lists
Well, I can’t claim to know anything about the other co-founder, but I went to school with one of the guys who founded this company, and I rather doubt he’d do that. What’s more likely the case, and what the FAQ says, is that companies (the Knicks, for example) pay the company to say “today’s knicks basketball game is at 7 PM at Madison Square Garden. Tickets can be obtained at X time. The prices are…”. Or something like that. And of course the same would be true for movies and shows and possibly even sales at nearby stores as well.
Actually, they make their money selling the technology to other information providers.
That is, when you call a hotel or airline or Moviefone, sometimes they’ll have the Tell Me function. You know, “Press or Say ‘One’ for more information.”
1800TellMe is just a demonstration of the product. It isn’t a loss-leader, exactly, but it isn’t their bread and butter, either.
How do I know? I pitched them some professional services works a few months ago, and they told me all about it.