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Payphones out, Wifi in

by Aaryn Slafky


New York City has begun transforming old payphones throughout the city into free public wifi spots through the LinkNYC project. You can now surf, chat, check email, whatever, while you recharge your device with free power and free Internet access. No more gigabyte limits. No more searching for a signal or waiting until you get to a wired connection. It’s funded by advertising. You may have read about this endeavor already.

Two interesting points come to my mind on this. First, it demonstrates the widespread demand for Internet access. You might even say Internet is becoming almost as critical to our daily lives as other utilities. It could be eclipsing voice communications. You almost have to make a deliberate decision to pick up the phone rather than text, email or chat. Live, human, voice-to-voice conversations is another discussion for another day though. (You can actually make free phones calls at these terminals, too.)

Back to public wifi. The other point that came to my mind as I read about this project was what our industry is doing similar to this. There are a few models out there – free hot spots offered by coffee shops and other businesses that pay the telco for access, free hotspots sponsored by the telco in certain restricted community spaces such as school sporting facilities, parks, fairgrounds or other municipal locations, free access in select areas for existing customers, but pay-as-you-go for non-customers. Those are just a few examples I’ve seen from our clients. The marketer in me insists on maximizing advertising and publicity for the provider in these endeavors. I’d say New York has done a good job on publicity. It’s not enough to just offer it. Permanent advertising needs to accompany every hot spot. If users must sign in to access, make sure the splash page is engaging and drives them to learn more about you and take action. Hilton does a good job with their splash page (encouraging you to book additional rooms, by the way). For the coffee shop offering free wifi, give them a faster speed for no additional cost in exchange for certain advertising concessions. Advertising options could include table tents, a message printed on receipts, signage, or co-marketing within the shop’s own advertising. If you’re offering free access, consider selling advertising to other local businesses. You could bundle that advertising to businesses – that’s probably a bundle your competition hasn’t thought of.

So, if you’re offering wifi, how do you advertise it?

In the meantime, click here if you want to learn more about LinkNYC.

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