Services & Software

The Pudding: Eavesdropping to sell you stuff

The start-up, launching at DemoFall '07, will analyze phone conversations in order to provide contextual ads.

This is either creepy or annoying.

Pudding Media, a San Jose, California, start-up launching at DemoFall 2007 on Monday, is offering free Web-based phone calls, if you let them monitor phone calls and show you onscreen advertisements based on the topic of your conversation.

To use the service, users go to and enter the phone number to call. The call quality is fine, and my call was connected right away, but what about the idea of the company monitoring your private conversations? Plus, most people are looking for ways to avoid ads these days (pop-up blockers, TiVo) but Pudding founders are sure that in exchange for free calls, users will made the trade-off. For now, Pudding uses a third-party to place the ads, but the company is working on developing its own custom ad network.

Perhaps the ads will be more targeted in the future. A quick testing of the software included a phone call about flying to San Diego, buying postage stamps, and eating Mexican food. Every ad served up gave me information about hockey and ice skating. Huh?