Developing Integrated Web and Telephone Personals without 900 Numbers
Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper are Sutcliffe’s First Customers
Contact: Andy Sutcliffe
Tucson, Ariz.— Jan. 12, 2004—Andy Sutcliffe, who developed voice personals for the Boston Phoenix in 1988 and who was the founding president of TPI, announced today the formation of a new company to develop the next-generation personals product for the alternative newsweekly industry. Called SelectAlternatives, the product enables alt-weekly publishers to offer a fully integrated, local web and telephone voice personals service to their readers.
“Ever since leaving TPI in 1998, I have been thinking about the next great revenue idea for our industry. I wanted to create a product that combines traditional telephone voice personals with online personals in a manner that makes use of the relationship readers have with their local alternative newsweekly and which returns control to newsweekly publishers. SelectAlternatives will be that product,” said Sutcliffe.
The new personals system will be built using DesertNet’s GyrobaseTM technology, combined with a state-of-the-art audiotext and mobile telephone platform.
The new company — Sutcliffe Associates, LLC — also announced its first two SelectAlternativessm customers: the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper.
“Select Alternatives brings together a bunch of elements that make it very exciting — the flexibility for users to respond easily online or via the phone (without using 900 service), an intensely local perspective, and the ability for us to maintain control of the relationship with our users. This is the best news in the personals business in years!” said Jane Levine, Publisher of the Chicago Reader.
The new service will be customized for each local newspaper, explained Sutcliffe. “Unlike national services, such as Match.com and Spring Street Networks, that aggregate millions of singles into one mega-database, SelectAlternatives will be a local service, designed for and by the local alt-weekly. This allows us to ask publication-specific questions, such as their favorite local personality, neighborhood bar or favorite section of the paper. And, unlike those national services that market everything from vacations to concert tickets to personals users, with our system, the publishers retain the relationship with their readers.”
Sutcliffe continued, “900-voice personals, once an incredibly profitable service for alt publishers, are near death with 30-plus percent losses each year for the last three years. The problem isn’t, per se, telephone voice personals. It’s making readers pay by the minute and using 900 numbers with their ridiculous costs.”
Tom Yoder, Secretary/Treasurer and long-time personals czar of the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper, stated: “The thing I like is that Sutcliffe is building a web and phone system designed from the ground up for alternative papers. It will have the bells and whistles of the web competitors that have eaten our lunch, but it will also integrate perfectly with ads we publish in print every week.”
The Company expects to launch the new product in the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper in May.
Andy Sutcliffe developed voice personals for the Boston Phoenix in 1988. He then became the founding president of Tele-Publishing, Inc. (TPI), the leading provider of 900-voice personals to the newspaper industry.
In 1998, Sutcliffe left TPI to become CEO of DesertNet. In 2000, he returned to the world of alt newsweeklies as the publisher of the Valley Advocate and later as group publisher of the New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly.
Sutcliffe Associates, LLC is headquartered in Marana, Arizona, a suburb of Tucson.