AT&T's a Big Buzzkill

11:25 Carrier-branded services still aren't selling -- or maybe it's just in the name as AT&T, Yahoo and Google give us nothing to buzz about

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

April 18, 2011

2 Min Read
AT&T's a Big Buzzkill

11:25 AM -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) have all learned the same lesson -- you can't just create buzz and expect people jump on board. Literally. Sites named Buzz just aren't working.

AT&T shut down its social search site,, on Monday, around the same time Yahoo is planning to discontinue Yahoo Buzz, its content aggregation site. Meanwhile, Google's Buzz social media network is still up and running, but continues to attract criticism -- and lawsuits -- for perceived privacy violations.

So what's the deal with Buzz?

Social aggregation sites just may not be that buzzworthy, for one thing. But for AT&T, I think it shows that carrier-branded services remain challenged.

AT&T's Buzz site was designed to peruse a user's social networks, including Facebook , Twitter Inc. and Yelp Inc. to get recommendations on local venues. But, according to Forbes, the carrier is refocusing on its core local advertising products, specifically on making its Yellow Pages business,, more social.

David Krantz, head of AT&T Interactive, which oversees, told Forbes that there was a strong awareness and trust in the YP brand already.

AT&T also has brand awareness, but not for one-off services like Buzz. Carriers may continue to find that they are better off throwing their weight behind an established brand, rather than trying to compete with them. They'll never have the cachet, nor the "hip" factor, that a Facebook does.

One area where AT&T may have better luck is with its Placecast-powered local ad service, ShopAlerts. I've been part of the trial for the past few weeks and, so far, the family deals at K-Mart and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) printer discounts haven't appealed to me, but AT&T is creeping closer to relevancy, without annoyance. (See CTIA 2011: Operators Tread Lightly With Opt-In Ads.)

At the least, AT&T's ShopAlerts is a service that's uniquely operator-focused, mobile and more buzzworthy than one that replicates what successful social networks already do well.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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