Ether helps bloggers charge for phone consultations

Ingenio has launched an online system called Ether designed to help experts set up consultation appointments by phone with callers.

A new online service from Ingenio ets experts field queries from advise-seekers, manage appointments and charge for their services.

The target users for the new service, called Ether, are experts who publish a Web site or blog and whose readers might be willing to pay a fee for special consultations.

Ether subscribers receive a toll-free phone number and access to an online system that automates the screening of consultation requests, the scheduling of calls and the processing of payments, the company announced this week.

Subscribers can route calls from the toll-free number to the phone number of their choice. The system lets subscribers establish their rates and the times they are available to field calls. Ingenio handles the payment process from start to finish, charging the callers and sending the funds to the Ether expert subscriber.

What is left up to the subscribers is the promotion of their services, because Ether doesn't aggregate its subscribers into an online community of experts. Subscribers can market their fee-based consultation services by posting their Ether toll-free number on their blogs, Web sites, print brochures and business cards.

Using the Web and the Internet to link service providers with clients isn't new, but Ether makes the process very simple by automating many steps in the process, said analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence. "If you're an expert and you have a following, Ether simplifies the process of selling your time," Sterling said.

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