article

E CHANNEL: Portal Finds Calling in Phoning Home

Posted: 1/2002

E-Channel

Portal Finds Calling in Phoning Home

By Tara Seals

Consumer resource portal PhoneMyHome.com is aiming at a large, yet overlooked, niche market: calling home.

Access to comparative information really can make a difference for business travelers, college students and international callers for whom calling home is an important pursuit. The startup comparison-shopping users can save up to 70 percent on calls home.

PhoneMyHome.com targets three distinct markets: Business travelers who must make calls from the road, college students and those who make international calls.

For college students (or often, more accurately, their parents), long-distance rates in university housing average 10 cents per minute for domestic long distance, and can be substantially more for those in apartment-style living situations. The site provides information about calling cards and personal toll-free numbers.

“For a college student, for example, the absolute cheapest way to do it is for the parents to have a toll-free number, which is something most people don’t think about doing,” says Lynn Oldshue, PhoneMyHome.com’s president. That gives students a rate as low as 4.9 cents per minute, she adds.

Calling cards often are a way of life for business travelers who want to avoid outrageous hotel surcharges; for travelers calling back to the United States; and for people living in the United States who make international calls back home. These people also tend to pay the highest rates, she says.

Oldshue explains calling cards are notoriously rife with hidden charges, penalties and odd billing increments.

“Calling cards are confusing, so we’ve dissected each plan and given a comparison engine,” she says. “We’ll break it all down and give our opinion on it.”

The site compares rates, minimum call times and billing increments, and it presents the information in a table format fitting a single page.

It also compares the top 10 lowest-rate domestic calling cards with no surcharges and no monthly minimums, and reviews the least expensive calling cards for international origination calls as well as international calls from the states.

The portal has researched programs extensively. It receives referral and agency commissions from some providers, but Oldshue says it took care to represent as many providers as possible.

“But we include everyone regardless, because we just want to make sure,” she says.

Parent company
SaveOnPhone.com, which has been featured in Consumer Reports, has made a business out of consumer advocacy. PhoneMyHome is the latest in the line of consumer resource websites that include
www.SaveOnPhone.com, which analyzes and ranks long-distance plans;
LowCards.com, which shows the 10 credit cards with the lowest interest rates; and JunkStopper.com where consumers can eliminate junk mail and telemarketing calls.

The newest site is PhoneSaver.com, which is being developed as a comprehensive phone rate calculator. This niche portal approach seems to be paying off.

“The Internet has been great,” says Oldshue. “There’s so much information out there so what we did was pull it all in one spot — it’s very targeted and very direct, and we’ve had a lot of traffic.”

Since PhoneMyHome.com’s launch in September, it has received 30,000 unique visitors who viewed 100,000 pages. In contrast, SaveOnPhone.com has had about 1 million unique visitors with 3 million page views in about three years.


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