The super cold weather that plagued much of the United States in the second week of January caused all kinds of problems, but it gave us insight into the continued popularity of telephone time & temperature systems. The lower the temperatures – the higher the call volumes to time and temp lines.
We monitored the Time & Temp services in several small towns through the cold snap, including some systems we own and operate, as well as systems our customers own and operate in their towns. A brief sampling of call volumes:
* A Time & Temp system in a small town in Louisiana received close to 300 calls per hour over several days
* Another system in a small town in Tennessee also received over 300 calls per hour
* A customer in Indiana logged over 10,000 calls to his system during the extremely cold weather
* Our company-owned Time & Temp service in a small community in Western Pennsylvania saw usage more than five times normal service levels
Similar usage stats were logged by other Time & Temp systems around the nation. And if you include the T&T lines from companies other than ours, Time & Temp likely took tens of millions of calls while the freeze was on. The call counts would have been even higher if there were more phone lines connected to T&T systems – some callers were unable to get through to their local T&T service, experiencing repeated busy signals.
As we've said before – there is still life in Time & Temp, and when you consider the thousands of calls received to systems in small to midsized towns during the cold snap – you would likely be hard pressed to find a LOCAL website with even a fraction of that traffic. The Internet is an important part of daily life, but it's not the ONLY way people obtain and consume information.
There is a time and temperature telephone service in St Louis that seems to get a bit more attention than one would expect. It seems that the service is owned by an attorney who uses it to generate attention for his legal practice. No problem there – we have several lawyers as customers who do the same thing in their towns. They offer telephone time & temp service free to the community with the goal of bringing attention to their practices. It works well – their services get tens of thousands of calls per month.
But St. Louis is a bit different – the time & temp attorney there is using rap music in the ads for his practice. Some of the callers are not happy about that, and they're letting the attorney know. We wonder if what they say is true – doesn't matter what they say about you – just so they say something!
Read all about it here. And by the way – our time & temp systems may be on the cutting edge (at least technologically) – but it's not likely you'll hear rap on there anytime soon.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, as they say. What else could explain the continued popularity of time & temperature telephone services? Here's one story about them:
And how about this one – a time and temp service celebrating their 60th year of providing service:
You have to wonder how many smartphone apps will still be working 60 years from now.
This is a new one – a political candidate in Missouri just happens to own a time and temperature telephone service (not one of our customers!). He configured his system to call out, in addition to taking inbound calls as time and temp has always done.
When homeowners look at the caller ID for the call that is coming in – they see "Time and Temperature." But when they answer – they first hear an ad for the candidate, and then hear the time and temp.
Some complaints have been filed about the practice, but the laws governing "robocalls" do not apply to political calls so it will be interesting to see the outcome. (By the way, our time and temp systems do not have the capability to do outbound calling).
You can read more about the controversy here.
At the moment, much of the U-S is suffering through triple digit temperatures. In our area, they're calling it "life-threatening heat." As you can imagine, unusually hot (or cold) weather leads to a spike in calls to telephone time and temperature lines around the country.
There are also lots of stories in the news showing bank time and temp signs all around the country. We've seen a few stories pointing out that the bank signs are showing the incorrect temperature – often 5 or 10 (or more!) degrees above the actual temperature. That's because those signs use a temperature sensor on a wire – if the sensor is not carefully installed, it will read the wrong temperature.
For example, if the cable leading to the sensor is not long enough, the folks who installed the time & temp sign may have just stuck the sensor where it was convenient for them to stick it. Near a roof, or in the direct sun could inflate the temperature reading by as much as 20 degrees.
The same problem exists for old-technology telephone time & temp systems – if the wired temperature sensor is not carefully installed – the temperature reading callers hear on the phone can be very wrong. That's one of the reasons our time & temp systems are Internet-based – there is no outside wiring and no outside temperature sensors. The temperature information callers hear is consistent and accurate.
How does a small business market its products and services these days? Should they ignore all the traditional avenues of marketing – print, radio, direct mail, and all the other options available? Instead, should they focus on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all the "new" methods of marketing?
It would seem that some marketers are finding that the rush to drop all traditional marketing in favor of the new digital options is not working out. We've been saying that for years – social media is great – as are Google ads, Bing ads, etc. But business customers are not found only through the web. Both consumers and business buyers continue to use the "old" media. And that can include telephone time and temp advertising. Who cares whether it is old or new if it works?
Interesting article about whether print advertising is "dead."
Is there no need for the technology of the past? I just read a column in a Detroit newspaper about the number of landlines homeowners are abandoning, in favor of using cell phones only. The column mentions telephone time & temp. The issues of calling 911 aside – are the telephone services of the past destined to be only memories? Those of us in the Time & Temperature industry think of that topic in all the time – is there still a need for a public telephone number that quickly and simply gives you the time, temp and forecast?
Rather than rely on our perception of what we think may or may not be needed these days, sometimes it's best to look at the data. For example, we are aware of a community with a Time & Temperature telephone service. The number of calls the Time & Temp line receives is higher than the local government website, a local weather website, the local Chamber Of Commerce website and the weekly newspaper's website – COMBINED. So if a service is still being heavily used – no matter whether it's an established service like Time & Temp or whether it is a newer service like the web, cell phones, texting, etc. – who cares when the technology was developed? The point is – is the service being used?
And, of course, we have to remember that a substantial number of calls to Time & Temp lines are made from cell phones. You can read the "nostalgia" here, if you wish.
Operators of time & temperature lines often see a spike in calls twice a year – when the time changes. Lots of people call to confirm that they have set the right time on the clocks in their homes, and they want to confirm that their cell phones have changed to the correct time!
An article about the time change in a Scottsboro, Alabama newspaper mentions the option of calling the local Time & Temp line. The operator of the service in Scottsboro (population about 15,000) gets about 35,000 calls per month.
By the way – WeatherNow Time & Temp systems from RTI Media automatically change to the correct time twice each year. Read about Scottsboro here.
Interesting article in the Dallas Morning News about Time & Temperature history, as well as a mention that the Time & Temp service in Dallas is sporadic, since the equipment is old and not very reliable. The article mentions that the system gets about 10 MILLION calls per year.
I've said it before, and it applies in this case – I wonder how many local websites in Dallas get 10 million hits per year? But while the bank involved in offering the service decides whether to shut off the Time & Temp system to save money – wouldn't it be interesting to see a cost comparison? Let's compare the cost of creating and maintaining a popular website with the cost of continuing a popular Time & Temp service. I'll bet it costs ten times more to create and maintain the website – and I'll bet the Time & Temp gets far more calls than the website gets hits.
And let's not forget – lots of the calls going into Time & Temp services are coming from cell phones. Older forms of communication are not abandoned – they continue to be used, along with the new forms of communication. Nothing was "replaced" by the Internet. The Internet is used along *with* the information sources we've always used.
Thanks to Mark Irvine for pointing us to the Dallas story. The Dallas Morning News has put the story behind a pay wall – you can't read it without being a subscriber to their newspaper (at least the time & temp service in Dallas is free!). If you would like to read it – send us a note by using the Contact Us page of this website.
A friend recently told me about a time and temperature telephone service in the Miami, Florida area that is a perfect example of what we have said for years about time and temp. The "South Florida Time And Temperature Service" has been in operation since World War 2 – and it delivers the time, temp and advertising to about 2.5 MILLION callers per month. Just another example – when callers get in the habit of calling the time and temperature line every day (or several times per day), they keep calling – for life. There aren't too many other ways of content delivery you can say that about!