A long time ago, literally about three years ago, I spoke to someone at Citysearch about the concept of a local ad exchange — a marketplace where merchant-advertisers could get distribution and where publishers could get more local ads to better monetize their content/pages. I and others have also been talking about an “AdSense for local” for some time. I also wrote about how local publishers (e.g., Yellowpages) are seeking ways to get qualified local clicks/leads from places other than Google.
Citysearch, according to a story appearing in TechCrunch, has created a marketplace of sorts called CityGrid. It may, as TechCrunch asserts, be partly a response to competitive pressures in the local destination game (although for ongoing success of the syndication model CS has to continue to generate/acquire UGC). But it’s part of a larger and longer-term strategy by Citysearch to become central player in local online advertising. For a long time Citysearch has positioned itself as a gateway for local business to the broader Internet. This is increasingly how yellow pages publishers (and their competitors) have been repositioning.
The challenge for many of these publishers, now that SEO is becoming more problematic at the local level, is how to get good quality but inexpensive traffic/distribution for their advertisers.
This system offers that opportunity. Everyone in one way or another is working on a “network,” which includes Google (out of necessity) but is not limited to Google. It’s not unlike diversifying a financial portfolio away from a single stock.
CEO Jay Herratti tells TechCrunch that there are over 100 partners signed up to date. This makes sense for everyone in the system. Content and local ads are syndicated (via an API) to third parties all over the place online and in mobile. Some of the partners identified include Local.com, Bing, Yellowpages.com and others. Small developers or publishers can use the system to gain additional content and/or ads rather than try selling SMB advertisers directly. This is FourSquare’s challenge for example, as it is equally the challenge of most other local startups.
Others who’ve created local marketplaces or “exchanges” include ReachLocal and V-Enable (but for mobile only). There are others beyond this thinking about syndicating their content and ads to the broader marketplace. Citysearch has created something here that represents one version of the future of local online advertising.
Here are some other recent posts about Citysearch:
- Citysearch Becomes a ‘Twitter Client’
- Yelp vs. Citysearch: Who’s Winning?
- IAC Wants You to Build Sidewalk.com
The press release came out a short while ago:
Over the past 24 months, CityGrid has secured distribution agreements with leading publishers and resellers and built a performance ad engine and technical infrastructure to connect their consumers and advertisers. Internet publishers including Bing, MerchantCircle and others are integrating Citysearch content – including editorial reviews, user reviews, social media content, merchant videos, photos and special promotional offers and functionality – into their own branded listings. These pages are then monetized through advertisers from Citysearch and IYP partners.