Who Ever Said Talk Was Cheap?

From stock news to sex chat, hot lines turn patter into profits

Ira Opper wonders how he got along without Surfline. A TV sports producer by profession and beach bum at heart, the Californian dials 976-SURF almost every day. For 95 cents a call, Surfline reviews beach conditions along 485 miles of coast from Santa Cruz to San Diego, updated twice daily based on reports from 100 part-time scouts. Says Opper, 39: "It's like having a direct line to King Neptune." Thanks to devoted dialers like Opper, the 3 1/2-year-old Surfline handles 1.2 million calls a year in California and has expanded to three area codes in Florida.

Caller-paid services like Surfline are...

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