Imagine Every YP Category As a Vertical

Imagine that one day every traditional yellow pages category will emerge or be developed online as a “Web 2.0” vertical, with data from myriad sources, personalization features and community. There are lots of entrepreneurs and lots of funders chasing too few opportunities out there. What we mostly get are more features masquerading as sites and more noise. There’s value to verticals clearly but more verticals also fragment the market for eyeballs and advertisers.

Here are the top YP revenue categories (2005) according to YPA data:

1. Attorneys
2. Physicians & Surgeons
3. Insurance
4. Dentists
5. Plumbing Contractors
6. Storage
7. Auto Repairing and Service
8. Air Conditioning Contractors
9. Glass
10. Pest Control Services
11. Roofing Contractors
12. Movers
13. Auto Dealers
14. Restaurants
15. Carpet and Rug Cleaners
16. Mortgages, Real Estate Loans
17. Heating Contractors, Furnaces, Heat Exchangers, Heat Pumps
18. Doors, Garage Doors
19. Chiropractors
20. Veterinarians/Hospitals
21. Real Estate

Not every one of these is equally “sexy” from a consumer standpoint and many of these are already developed or developing as applications and sites online. But every single “life cycle” purchase decision, every major consumer need will likely turn into a “vertical” site (not sure if we need that for HVAC, however).

That’s my extended preamble into mentions of RepairPal, which is like Zillow or Yelp for auto repair. The site just launched and is extensively reviewed on TechCrunch. The review also mentions the recently launched autos site DriverSide, which has similar but broader ambitions (including valuation and sales) and was co-founded by Jad Dunning who was one of the founders of StepUp. The hope is to draw in independent advertisers and dealer groups with the promise of highly targeted consumer leads. And that’s real if you can get the consumer traction and visibility. (Luckily autos is one of the most developed advertising categories online and there are ad networks that can feed these sites too.)

These sites and others like them tap a slice of the YP database and then build deeper content and features (and more recently community) around that data. It’s almost a formula, which is not to say there isn’t value for the consumer-user. But visibility is very challenging and every segment, including autos, has scores of sites. Beyond that I can go to a Yelp (even Facebook) for auto-mechanic recommendations and if that’s my trusted community why wouldn’t I?

The answer is that DriverSide and RepairPal have information that Yelp doesn’t about car valuations and the cost of repairs specifically. But getting broad exposure will be tricky and my guess is that these sites will quickly be syndicating their content and tools/features to bigger players out there — the eBay Motors, Yahoo! Autos, Autotraders, MyRides, Cars.coms, Edmunds, etc. And the hope would be to be acquired by one of those to provide additional functionality and content to existing users.

Here are the “top 10 automotive destinations” (per Nielsen, April 2008):

Automotive site traffic

Source: Nielsen/MarketingCharts (4/08); in thousands

Advertisements

14 Responses to “Imagine Every YP Category As a Vertical”

  1. Stan Gauss Says:

    Greg-
    I know I always talk in terms of local newspapers (media) but your observation is spot on. If newspapers can figure out a way to become the category ‘Market Leader’ and roll up their category verticals into a fully optimized Marketplace solution they can win and begin to shorten the ‘long-tail’.

    The first step is deciding which categories they can have the most impact with.

  2. Jeff Herr Says:

    Great discussion!

    We’ve started developing group “channels” around top YP categories and incorporate extensive social-marketplace elements to draw in the local wisdom from our readers.

    We started with Bridal for a bunch of reasons. Getting married is definitely a “major” cycle in life. A great test of concept as an umbrella for all YP categories under that group. We are now moving into “Your Health” for top docs, physical therapists, etc. and then a “Homeowner Center” for landscapers, title agents, and plumbers.

    Check out the Social Marketplace in the right column here: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyle/bestbridal

    — Jeff

  3. Andrew Shotland Says:

    There is still a lot of opportunity with this approach. As I have always said anyone who wants to own the online market for sending leads to upholsterers pretty much has the space to themselves. Roll up a lot of these unsexy categories and they could start looking pretty sexy.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Very good strategy and definitely one that newspapers are in a position to do if they can “see” it.

  5. Randy Hoffman Says:

    Jeff, I would love to talk with you about your bridal site. Here is my email address if you would contact me: hoffmanrandy@yahoo.com

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  8. Steve Cissel Says:

    Roll 11 YPA Lawn and Garden categories into one and you get the #7 ranked category with 290 million + look-ups.

    We are enabling traditional print’s web properties to ‘verticalize’ their lawn and garden segments.

    Many have HUGE archives of Lawn and Garden content, but limited commerce connectivity to bring it all together, so we do it for them.

    Interestingly, we have had this capability for a while, but only now is there an audience receptive to this concept.

    We’re having fun sharing a new term with them: ‘Hyper-Relevant’.

    Run with it.

    Steve

  9. Greg Sterling Says:

    Here’s house and garden category traffic growth:

  10. Steve Cissel Says:

    Thanks Greg !

    Steve

  11. Dave Oremland Says:

    Those that are local media smart will look more closely at some of those items to find the biggest advertisers in all local media, not just YP.

    For instance in most local media, auto dealers will be amongst the largest media with extensive use of print, radio, and local tv besides YP. Storage home repair, glass (auto and home), and others compete against one another with ever larger display ads but don’t invest in as many other sources.

    The web in its entirety captures much of the media for all sorts of vendors and services. Its very astonishing.

    Market smart folks will look at total local expenditures to focus on the largest overall spenders.

    On the other hand, there are many efforts at verticals. They only continue to grow.

  12. Greg Sterling Says:

    Dave: Agree with your comments.

  13. Mike Says:

    Greg,

    Do you think there are some vertical that we’ll never be able to break into? Physicians/Doctors come to mind. It’s hard to really review a physician for what they really offer and physicians are bound by confidentiality so they can’t fully partake in the conversation.

  14. Greg Sterling Says:

    Mike:

    Zocdoc and Angie’s list immediately come to mind. Both are reviewing doctors, as well as s number of other health oriented sites. But I agree that all verticals won’t be equally penetrated with consumer reviews.

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