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March 08, 2007

Skype Prime is the Wave of the Future

Just announced Skype Prime allows you to charge a caller for speaking with you.  All calls start out as free and then go to a paid basis when and if the caller agrees to the rate you want to charge.  Rates can be either on a time basis varying from $.50 to $2.50 per minute or can be anywhere from $.50 to $12.00 per call.  Payment is made with Skype credits and credit balances can be withdrawn via PayPal.  Oh yeah, Skype keeps 30% of the revenue for its pains.

The service is aimed at consultants today.  A commenter on Michael Arrington’s post about the new service predicts, correctly I think, that more than 50% of their revenue in the first year’ll be from phone sex.  That is what happened with 900 service from the old phone companies.  But Skype Prime has potential much greater than that (and phone sex IS a big industry); this service could justify the price that eBay paid for Skype.  This integration of Skype and PayPal may turn out to brilliant, perhaps beyond what eBay even anticipates.  This is your chance to charge telemarketer for calling you!  And they’ll pay.

Here’s the deal: ever since the first phone, phone companies have charged the people who call you for that privilege.  That charge obviously resulted in revenue for the phone company but it also kept down the number of annoying and unwanted calls.  As the price for calls went down, the amount of telemarketing went up.  Nevertheless, marketers ARE willing to pay to reach prospects – after all, that’s what advertising and selling are all about.  Usually the marketer pays some intermediary in order to reach you.

We get paid indirectly today for allowing ourselves to be reached.  We get entertainment in return for watching ads (at least preTiVo).  We get free web content; we get Google searches.  All this paid for by the people who want to reach us.  Sometimes we do get paid directly: listen to the timeshare pitch and get a free lunch or even a night or two somewhere; get a free something in return for giving up your email address.

The world has changed.  If calls begin and end on Skype, no phone company collects termination charges from the caller.  We pay for the network that is used when we pay for out Internet access.   The good part is that the calls are free; up until now the bad part was also that the calls were free.  In theory at least SPIT (Spam over Internet telephony) could become a huge business if Skype numbers were to become public.

Here’s my prediction: many people will set up Skype Prime based call services.  They’ll put information in their profiles which attracts telemarketers.  Telemarketers will learn who the best prospects are both from the profiles (some of which will be lying) and by accumulating lists.  You’ll adjust the rate so that you’re pleased, not annoyed when you get a telemarketing call.  I would have charged a lot less when I was in college – buy me a beer – then I would today; but I was worth less than as a prospect, too.  BTW, the minimum needs to go down and the maximum up but that’ll happen.  Also there needs to be a way to eliminate the free beginning of the call; but that’s a nit.

Before long this’ll spread to email (also provided by eBay?) and instant messaging.  It’s already available for Skype video calls.

On the web, nothing succeeds like disintermediation (and sex).  Marketers always pay to reach prospects.  Prospects often have an inducement to be reached.  What could be simpler than to have the marketers pay us prospects directly?  Good for the marketers; good for the prospects.

Michael Arrington points out that there is already a service called Ether which charges only 15% for this service.  But, as Michael also points out, Ether doesn’t have Skype’s installed base nor does it have PayPal as a corporate sibling.  You need network critical mass to get this going and that is what eBay bought with Skype.

I’m gonna buy some eBay stock.  Probably shouldn’t have told you before the market opens.

I was initially skeptical of eBay’s purchase of Skype.

But I did predict callers getting paid.

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» Will Skye Minutes Become Fungible? from Hitchhiker's Guide to 650
Not now . . . but it will get there. Last week, Skype launched the long rumored/ expected/ in development Skype Prime service(via TechCrunch). Using Skype Prime, users can charge to recieve a call. Even before the skype acquisition, (aug 2005)... [Read More]


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