Monetizing Google Voice

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks you have probably heard something about Google’s newest offering; Google Voice.

There was a lot of initial buzz in the press about how the new voice management service would revolutionize the way that people interact with their phones and the internet, but nobody has really discussed how it may eventually be used to generate revenue for Google – and what that might mean for its users.

Here I am going to give a few ideas how advertising may potentially be introduced in the future, and how it could change how and where marketers reach their audiences.

#1) Get them hooked and then charge a fee

It is possible, yet seemingly unlikely, that Google will offer Google Voice (GV) free-of-charge for a period of time to get people hooked on the service, and then switch to some sort of monthly subscription or per-use fee. This is something that they have done in the past with Google Checkout by offering to handle e-commerce transactions for web vendors without charge in order to boost adoption of the service – only to switch to a fee based structure similar to PayPal. The only way that this is happening is if they were to offer a separate service for businesses with extras, like an 800 number or the ability to add multiple users to one account so that each department of a company could have their own login to access their messages and contacts.

#2) Pre-roll Audio Ads

Although Google recently announced that they would no longer be offering audio advertising through radio stations, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be reborn in GV. A simple way that this could work would be to run audio ads each time that you call in to check your voicemail. This would be slightly annoying, but then again it wouldn’t be too bad, especially if the ads were relevant to your usage behavior (more on this later).

#3) Text and display ads

This is where things could get a bit more interesting for both users and advertisers due to the technologies used in GV and cellular phones. One of the coolest features of GV is the ability to have your voice mail messages transcribed into text that can later be viewed through the GV interface or emailed to an address you specify. Google already serves ads based on the content of your GMail messages so it wouldn’t be much trouble for them to do the same for your voice mails.

Now consider that most new cellular phones are GPS-enabled and are able to display both text and full color video, and you can see how combining these technologies could lead the next generation of local advertising. Imagine a friend leaves a message asking if you would like meet up for dinner and drinks, then shortly thereafter you receive a text message from a local restaurant with a coupon for 20% off their dinner menu. The possibilities here are endless. Most businesses would kill to have this type of ability to reach potential customers when and where they are most likely to make a purchase.

Time will tell if any of these ideas will be used to monetize Google Voice or if the brains in Mountain View will come up with something completely different. You can look back at the history of Google projects, and for a vast majority, they have eventually been utilized to deliver ads in one form or another.

What do you think will happen? Post your theories on how Google Voice could change the way you interact with potential customers.