Kudzu Expands to Face Tough Field

Peter Krasilovsky reports that Cox-owned local services directory Kudzu.com is expanding to markets outside its home turf of Atlanta. GM Tom Bates, who was involved in the original Cox cityguides, long ago told me that Kudzu was something of an experiment. It appears to be one that has gone well enough to “greenlight” the expansion, which wasn’t always clearly going to happen.

Kudzu offers one of the most complete local search/directory sites on the market with a comprehensive feature set. The expansion will extend to San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas according to the Krasilovsky post.

Although Kudzu is a very strong product it will face an uphill battle penetrating these new markets because of a full range of competitors. One of the factors that provided enormous help to Kudzu in its native Atlanta is that Cox owns almost all the media in the town and was able to build tremendous consumer awareness very quickly. The local businesses followed.

Krasilovsky points out that the new markets are ones that Cox cable operates in and thus can provide support of the entry. Here’s a map of all the Cox cable markets. Cox also owns multiple newspaper properties. This provides another look at potential territories for Kudzu expansion if the company’s strategy is to enter markets where it has traditional media assets to drive awareness.

Bates previously told me that Kudzu had in excess of 9,000 local advertisers that showed up to self-provision profiles. This represents something just shy of 10% of Atlanta small businesses and proves that some segment of the SME population will self provision if the consumer traffic is there.

Kudzu is also integrated into the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a Cox newspaper. However, it’s buried “beneath the fold” (under “Services” [right column]) on a very confused and cluttered home page. The coveted spot for “yellow pages” (top horizontal nav) is instead occupied by YellowPages.com (YP searches send you through to the site).

I made the intentionally provocative statement in a presentation I gave earlier today that “most of what people are actually doing online relates directly or indirectly to local”:

  • Maps/driving directions
  • Jobs, Cars, Real Estate, Private Party, Dating/Personals
  • Local news/editorial
  • A&E: Restaurants/bars, local events (incl. tickets)
  • Yellow pages (service listings)
  • Travel (we can debate whether this is local)
  • Product research and local shopping (incl. coupons). Recall also that 97% of US retail is offline and service businesses must also fulfill offline

Reporters and others often ask when local is going to “happen.” It’s already happening; the demand is there, the usage is there. It’s just spread across hundreds and hundreds of properties. That makes local difficult for advertisers to buy and for any given property or destination to amass enough traffic to match the offline proposition of traditional media.

Local networks are forming to overcome that fragmentation for advertisers and to create distribution across multiple properties to reach consumers wherever they may be. As I’ve pointed to many times, RegisterLocal is an example of just one such product. Newspapers are also very involved (under the radar) in experiments with the very same “bundled clicks” products that yellow pages are selling quite successfully, as represented in Monday’s WSJ article (sub. req’d) on the same subject.

What will be very interesting to watch is whether Kudzu can come into markets where there is already heavy competition and coverage from several local search destination sites and gain any usage – and whether/how it leverages these traditional media assets to enter those markets.

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2 Responses to “Kudzu Expands to Face Tough Field”

  1. Screenwerk » Blog Archive » YellowPages.com Taps AdMission for Self-Service Says:

    […] I go back to my Kudzu example, where more than 9,000 Atlanta advertisers showed up to establish/augment profiles because the site was so popular among local consumers.  […]

  2. Jonathan Lewis of PersonalsDigital.com Says:

    Great idea, and nice info about what people really search online…

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