I’m now seeing the PR and release around the Universal Business Listing initiative. I wrote about it here previously. Some quick thoughts; first, the skepticism. I’ll voice the challenges so you don’t have to:
- Most SMBs won’t show up and do this, history has already proven, regardless of the price point
- The entity doesn’t have any visibility or credibility (at least not yet)
- The database can never be comprehensive (for the previous reasons, among others) and thus this initiative can never fully live up to its potential
- If this were really going to succeed at scale it would be a powerful threat to the traditional media companies now in local and their ad revenues, if not their ad models. Accordingly, they won’t promote it aggressively if at all
- Because this is largely a self-serve model, one problem would be businesses that fail and no one removes or otherwise purges those listings
Now some things that make it potentially radical:
- The concept is what the local internet needs to overcome fragmentation and improve the overall quality of local data, especially SMB listings. There are several comparable simplification efforts going on (e.g., Local.com, RegisterLocal) that are more costly
- If there can be some word of mouth, online advertising and/or exposure this could build good momentum with SMBs looking for a simple and direct way to gain broad exposure online
- It’s so cheap that it could, if sufficiently adopted, divert money out of higher cost publisher programs — although people will likely still buy placement on individual sites: there’s no branding opportunity here for example
- If the database were sufficiently large it could promote the proliferation of local sites, where any would-be publisher or startup can take the data for free and suddenly have a credible local site
What do you think? Do you think it has a chance to succeed?
Looked at a different way, this is an attempt to do with industry participation what Paul Youlton has been seeking to do with his open, Yellowikis project.