Can Someone Explain Why Google's Free Voicemail Offer Is Newsworthy?

from the it's-been-done,-it's-free-for-anyone-already dept

Google got a bunch of press earlier this week for giving out “free voicemail accounts” to the homeless. I tried to ignore the story, but it keeps getting written about, and it seemed like there were a few points worth making. First of all, this concept isn’t new. Almost five years ago, we wrote about Cisco doing the same thing. There’s a whole organization, called Community Voicemail, that has done this for years. But, an even more important point: Google’s GrandCentral service is already free. For anyone. Whether you have a home or not. So, offering it for free to the homeless isn’t anything special. In fact, it would really only seem newsworthy if, for some reason, the company were not offering accounts to the homeless. So, yes, basically, this is a story about how Google is offering its already free service to the homeless, even though the homeless have already had free voicemail offerings for years. Next thing you know, we’re going to see a press release about how the homeless can now use search engines for free too… Plus, I hear that the homeless can get free Gmail accounts!

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Companies: cisco, google

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Comments on “Can Someone Explain Why Google's Free Voicemail Offer Is Newsworthy?”

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SmartypantsAdvisor says:

Mind your language...

Come on Smartypants, don’t be so rude. We all know we are in the midst of the web 2.0 bubble about to burst but still… could you please stick to your principles and be polite, you may have to live with other homeless web 2.0 experts in a few months or so when google shares will finally crumble.

*PANIC* or just your average friday afternoon nonsense commentary? .. you decide..

Homeless says:

Free stuff

Sure google voice mail and e-mail accounts are free to anyone. Why I use google mail, it is portable. The issue is knowing these services are free and available. So the more press the better I say !

Not sure the library is going to be to interested in the homeless jacking in a mike and headphone in the reading room though.

Now a good idea would be handing out free blue tooth enabled skype usb flash phones ! One could say plug them in at any usb port at your local coffee shop, or anywhere else, to charge them up or use them.

Only down side to that might be a homeless camp develops in your back yard because you are handing out free wireless. lol

Gogmagog says:

Free for anyone.

The invite only thing isn’t an obstacle.
Primarily, if you click on their own website to request an invite, you will usually get one in less than a day. If for some reason that doesn’t work or you are in a hurry, there are other websites set up to share invites. You get an instant invite and in turn pledge two of your 8 invites.

There is one obstacle, you need to reference a working USA phone number to set it up. I don’t know how that’s managed for the homeless, assuming they don’t have a cell phone in which case free voicemail wouldn’t be an issue.

Tripp Fenderson (user link) says:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the intent behind the original GrandCentral (before Google bought them out) to provide phone/voicemail services for the homeless in SFO?

Also, you mention Community Voicemail in your post above. While it’s true that they offer a similar service, the difference, unless it’s changed since I last looked, is that it’s a temporary service. GrandCentral is an account for life.

Steve Albertson (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Hi. I work for the Community Voice Mail National Office in Seattle. The numbers we provide to homeless and “phoneless” people are temporary in the sense that we provide them until our clients no longer need them (they have a home, can afford a phone, etc.) or are no longer using them. We distribute our numbers in 41 mostly large U.S. cities through a network of 2100 social service agencies, and these agencies manage the numbers locally because they are working directly with the clients. Numbers get “recycled” when our clients are no longer using them, and we then give them to someone else who needs it. On average, our clients keep their Community Voice Mail number for about 7 months.

We’re really excited about the Google announcement. There are a *lot* of people in America without reliable phone service; the FCC says nearly 6 million households are without a telephone. Our clients are actively trying to improve their lives (that’s one reason they’re seeking help at the social service agency that gives them the number), and the more resources available the better. Providing someone with a phone number is a really inexpensive way to have a big impact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's more to the story.

Normally your analysis is dead on. I guess you sensationalized this for something to write about instead of digging deeper. Read the link below. The true story

It doesn’t seem that you even bothered to read the page you linked to. Mikes point was that this wasn’t anything new. Then on the page you linked to it says that this was a just re-announcement of something already announced two years ago. It seems to me that Mike was right after all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: google

Leave it to Techdirt to find something negative about someone helping someone else.

OK, just how did Techdirt do that (other than in your imagination, that is)?

Move on….who cares how many times someone does it or announces they are doing it.

If it isn’t new information, then it by definition isn’t news. And this certainly isn’t new. Supposed “news” organizations that present old information as “news” are either incompetent or dishonest. Do you work for one of them?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: google

Leave it to Techdirt to find something negative about someone helping someone else.

I wasn’t being negative about it. I think it’s great to provide free voicemail for the homeless. I’m just noting that it’s not something new or different.

Just because I’m pointing out problems with the story, doesn’t mean I’m against the concept.

Etch says:


Simplest answer is you can’t get a job without a way of contacting you, if you don’t have a phone number or an address, you can’t start your life! (if that’s your intention of course)

This is what this is all about, giving people a second (in some cases first) chance. Of course, how effective it will be will depend on the homeless shelters themselves and how they will promote this to the homeless!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hilary Clinton is...

…now using Republican scare tactics. Just what our country needs: a little more fear. How low can she go? 3 a.m and Hillary Clinton is dressed like that? Anyone want to help nominate her for the “Stupid Oscar”?

The phone rang 6 times in the ad. Do you think the call went to GrandCentral Voicemail?

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