AT&T has the concept right: build a next-generation local site that will appeal to segments of users who no longer use yellow pages off or online. That site, which aims to bring community and recommendations into the mix is called Buzz.com. There will also be corresponding mobile apps and a mobile website.
Forbes offers a discussion of the site and comments from AT&T Interactive CEO David Krantz, which provide some clues about its design and functionality:
- A user looking for a reliable moving company in Manhattan could simply poll his or her friends on the site. But since a more focused search will likely yield more useful recommendations, buzz.com will also be able to suggest experts for that particular topic based on user “favorites” and comments.
- “[AT&T] is trying to leverage social graphs that already exist, so people can import them and build on them” . . . users will be able to invite groups of friends from their e-mail accounts or Facebook profiles and link their buzz.com activity to those sites rather than replicating their social-networking networks on buzz.com.
- On buzz.com, users won’t be writing full-fledged reviews. They can choose to “favorite” a business or not and write brief comments, but there isn’t a place for airing grievances.
- It also creates a place where advertisers are happy to reward loyal customers. Though the site doesn’t currently have this function, AT&T is betting that advertisers will offer discounts or other special offers to buzz.com members.
This sounds very much like AlikeList with some Aardvark, Twitter and Amazon thrown in. More broadly, however, this type of thinking is very much the next “iteration” of the local directory online. The concepts and ideas aren’t unique to AT&T. But there’s a difference between a list of features on a whiteboard and a winning product.
Execution is everything.
The $100 million question is whether AT&T is going to be able to deliver something competitive and compelling to the target consumer audience. I’m interested and eager to see what they unveil.
As the article points out Buzz.com, unlike a true startup, will have immediate monetization, given AT&T’s advertiser base and sales assets. But AT&T can and should also probably be actively out there buying other local sites to aggregate and further diversify traffic sources.