800 YELLOWPAGES Pursues California-wide Strategy

As Bakersfield goes, so goes the rest of the state - at least in terms of Free Directory Assistance. After a few short months in Bakersfield, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; and Oklahoma City, Okla., AT&T has deemed its free directory assistance service ready for a bigger audience. Bear in mind California has something like 20% of the U.S. population. If it were an independent country it would be roughly the tenth largest economy in terms of GDP. Thus state-wide roll-out of 1-800-YELLOWPAGES (1-800 935-5697) is truly significant.

More important than the aggregate size of the California economy are the individual markets that it encompasses. In addition to general sponsorships to subsidize the initial call, AT&T is also establishing opportunities for more sponsored category search and for re-directs in some of the largest, most-affluent markets in the country, including Los Angeles, San Fancisco, San Diego and San Jose. All have much higher profiles and probably better aggregate demographics than Bakersfield (no offense).

The bottom line is that, while alternative Free DA search providers position themselves for pitched battle in the court of intellectual property, AT&T may be ready to take on rival in the marketplace of public opinion (and usage) on a local market by local market basis.