Citysearch Now Just One Publisher at CityGrid

Jay Herratti is now the CEO of CityGrid Media — not Citysearch. Kara Nortman runs day to day operations for Citysearch, InsiderPages and Urbanspoon, the three local properties owned and operated by the new entity CityGrid Media. There are also strategic investments in OrangeSoda and MerchantCircle.

I asked Herratti what he will be doing on a daily basis now? He laughed and said that he will primarily be helping evangelize and promote the CityGrid network and overseeing the ongoing development of its platform and infrastructure.

CityGrid has quickly emerged as the most prominent of the new group of local ad networks, which also include Where, Local AdXchange and to varying degrees LSN and Verve Wireless. However all of these are either exclusively or predominantly mobile ad networks, while CityGrid is “platform agnostic.” In addition, some of these use CityGrid to provide fill for their own networks. There’s also Google AdSense of course, as well as various more traditional ad networks that also offer geo-targeting. (Local.com’s white label IYP network is a version of this as well.)

CityGrid however is the most visible and arguably the best positioned of the bunch. It also offers the most direct alternative to Google AdSense for publishers, although CityGrid can be used beside AdSense as well.

According to the official material from IAC:

CityGrid aggregates more than 700K paying advertisers including YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com and Dex, and reaches over 140M unique users across more than 150 web and mobile partners including Bing.com, MapQuest, AOL and more.

The CitySearch sales force now becomes the CityGrid Media sales force. It will be selling Citysearch as one of many properties in a much broader network. But that pitch is not far removed from what has been going on at Citysearch for some time. And because it owns or controls a considerable amount of its own traffic, CityGrid is in a stronger position than some of its independent sales channel competitors, which must get a substantial chunk or a majority of their traffic from Google.

A couple of years ago Citysearch seemed to really be faltering vs. Yelp, which had reinvented the city guide model that Citysearch helped pioneer. But a couple of acquisitions later and with the arrival of CityGrid the business has almost been totally reinvented. And in some ways CityGrid Media has a brighter future and is now more valuable to corporate parent IAC than Ask.com.

I asked Herratti what happens if “a 100 new sites” now come at him to become part of the network? Can they integrate them? Can they control quality?

He said that developer self-service will allow publishers to join CityGrid rapidly without the bottlenecks that would otherwise accompany the process. He also said that before anyone is paid there are quality checks that CityGrid does to ensure publishers measure up.

I asked about what happens to clicks and calls that come through the system from sites that have integrated (via self-service) CityGrid content and advertisers but have yet to be “certified” officially on the network? Herratti said those are free calls and clicks to the advertiser. Until approval of the publisher site there’s no charge to advertisers for traffic or leads coming through. Accordingly Herratti said that there was lots of “free” traffic to advertisers on the network.

I questioned whether small publishers and developers “could really make a living” off the revenue generated by CityGrid. Herratti was emphatic that they could: “Absolutely.”

Herratti said that Urbanspoon was a beta partner before it was acquired and they saw the revenue being generated there. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to buy them,” he explained.

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5 Responses to “Citysearch Now Just One Publisher at CityGrid”

  1. Will Scott Says:

    CitySearch / IAC has really done a great job of strategic acquisition / investment.

    With InsiderPages, UrbanSpoon and Orange Soda they manage to put themselves smack in the middle of the SMB online advertising arena.

    Clearly UrbanSpoon is no Yelp but as more advertisers and users get worn down by the snarky BS UrbanSpoon definitely has a chance for leverage.

    Couple that with the presence of CitySearch, UrbanSpoon and InsiderPages in Google reviews and they’re potentially ahead of Yelp in references from Google.

    I’d love to see CitySearch / IAC bring focus to these properties for a viable alternative to Yelp and Google AdSense.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Clearly I think CityGrid is an alternative to AdSense and they’re very aware of that. In fact CityGrid has emerged as the “anti-Google.”

  3. Poppy Vega Says:

    “I asked about what happens to clicks and calls that come through the system from sites that have integrated (via self-service) CityGrid content and advertisers but have yet to be “certified” officially on the network? Herratti said those are free calls and clicks to the advertiser. Until approval of the publisher site there’s no charge to advertisers for traffic or leads coming through. Accordingly Herratti said that there was lots of “free” traffic to advertisers on the network.”

    I have been advertising with them for a couple months now, and my bill has been outrageous compared to how many actual clicks and calls I’m getting. I spoke to citygrid and they realized there were some discrepancies with a couple publishers. They only showed me the publisher report from this past month and not the previous ones. They only refunded me $ from the past month and refuse to check previous months for mistakes.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Are you saying you think there’s click or call fraud in the system?

  5. Poppy Vega Says:

    Yea after weeks of asking for info they finally sent me the full publisher report showing where all clicks come from and I discovered there was fraud. Since I pointed it out to them they have not returned my calls or emails.

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