Blank banners

Almost every Web site has unsold banner ad space. Studies show the average company has 75 percent of its banner space available, leaving business owners a large inventory of virtual real estate that’s not making money.

One company has come up with a solution: Turn this empty space into your own branded wireless service.

“We actually allow any company on the Net to create a private-label wireless phone business,” says David Steinberg, founder and CEO of Inphonic. “We allow you to sell a wireless phone that our partners activate the contracts for and pay you a percentage.”

Here’s how it works: Inphonic makes banners and boxes to fit the ad spaces on your site and uploads them to run in the unsold space. When someone clicks on the ad offering a free wireless phone, they are taken to a site customized for your business. For example, users who click on the phone ads are taken to a site customized for Talkcity wireless.

Users type in where they live, and the site finds the wireless partner in their area to activate the contract. When the person receives his or her phone, it is labeled for the business it was purchased from — in our example, it would be

“Because these ads are running on space that is unsold anyway, this is a zero opportunity cost,” says Steinberg.

Inphonic is adding a service to allow users to answer questions about usage patterns, then be directed to the provider with the best deal for their needs.

“Only 25 percent of people in the U.S. have phones, which is the lowest rate of all the industrialized nations,” says Steinberg. “That means 75 percent either don’t have one now or have never had one. We’re aiming for both the 75 percent and those who are already experienced.”

Inphonic started working with sites that were receiving 1 million to 50 million impressions per month, but is adding an automated service so that any size business can participate. All you will need to do is upload your logo for use on the site and the phone labels. Larger companies also receive a customized toll free number to help users, while smaller companies will receive a number which, instead of referring directly to the business (such as Talkcity Wireless), will say “Powered by Inphonic.” That will also be noted on the site.

“The average consumer looks at their phone 12 to 15 times a day,” says Steinberg. “How much do you pay to get your name seen once a day in the paper? This is a great branding opportunity. You get a percentage of revenue for the phones sold, your customer gets a brand name phone and you are monetizing unsold ad space.” How to reach:

Todd Shryock ([email protected]) is SBN’s special reports editor.