Archive for the ‘Local Search’ Category

Superpages Offers Improved Business Profiles

May 24, 2010

SuperMedia introduced a new Superpages profile page with enhanced content and a cleaner look today:

I don’t have any images of the old profiles to show for comparison purposes but this is much improved, based on my memory.


AT&T Promoting YPMobile with Contest

May 24, 2010

AT&T is seeking to promote use of its mobile app with a contest:

Yahoo! Continues Outsourcing with Match

May 24, 2010

Yahoo! has outsourced another vertical — dating (which is largely local) to IAC’s, an operating business of IAC (Nasdaq: IACI), today announced an agreement by which will become the exclusive online dating site on Yahoo!.  Yahoo! Personals users will have the opportunity to move to a new co-branded experience, “ on Yahoo!” where they will combine with the greater community. The on Yahoo! service is available starting today.

Yahoo! Personals users will receive special offers designed to help them enjoy all that has to offer. The two companies are working together to help users easily migrate to on Yahoo!. Over the next two months, existing Yahoo! Personals members will be given the opportunity to seamlessly migrate their Yahoo! Personals accounts over to the new experience. on Yahoo! offers compelling features including mobile access, daily personalized matches and robust search tools and will fully replace the existing Yahoo! Personals experience at the end of the transition period.

This is now part of a pattern that includes search, shopping and other verticals. In a way its smart: pick the best-of-breed partner and then let them worry about product development. It’s part of an overall cost-containment strategy. Yahoo! gets the content without the engineering costs.

The company has decided there are a number of strategic areas that it needs to keep in house: news, sports, finance, among a few others. I believe that Local is also on that list.


Related: Yahoo! announced a relationship with coupon/direct marketing vendor Valassis last week:

Yahoo! is entering into a partnership with leading media and marketing services company Valassis. The partnership will expand the online advertising options available to Valassis’ clients, providing them with Yahoo!’s customized targeting solutions for reaching the right customers in their communities. Valassis’ clients will further benefit from the ability to access premium online display advertising inventory from Yahoo!

The partnership is a key component of Yahoo!’s greater strategy of working with local partners to help them reinvent their business and provide them with the tools they need to maximize their online spend.

Nokia/Navteq to Power Yahoo! Maps

May 24, 2010

One of the aspects of the newly announced strategic partnership between Nokia and Yahoo! is that Yahoo! Maps will now be “powered by Ovi.” Ovi Maps is of course Navteq.

Here’s what the press materials said:

Nokia will be the exclusive, global provider of Yahoo!’s maps and navigation services, integrating Ovi Maps across Yahoo! properties, branded as “powered by Ovi.”

While this is consistent with Yahoo!’s efforts to outsource expensive/complex technology problems to others, in this case it solves a problem for the company. Originally Yahoo!  had been the leader in interactive mapping. Then Google and later Microsoft started pumping millions into developing their mapping products and Yahoo! consciously stopped investing. That was a blow to Yahoo! and Yahoo! Local.

This partnership will give Yahoo! high quality mapping and routing and maybe more. It won’t solve the “street level photography” issue for Yahoo! however. Apparently monetization and advertising is a TBD aspect of the deal.

I’m sure this will also be leveraged by Yahoo! in mobile and local search on mobile devices.

Newspapers Step Up SMB Outreach

May 23, 2010

A number of newspapers have been offering SMB marketing packages for some time. Chief among those is McClatchy, which has had a long-standing relationship with WebVisible.

Now Matt McGee is reporting at SEL that Gannett’s local marketing arm (“Gannett Local“) is offering a new suite of marketing tools for local businesses, which includes SEO, email, web presence, display and other online marketing:

With the power of Gannett, the company behind USA Today, The Arizona Republic and, we can jump start your advertising. What can we do for you?

  1. Build traffic to your business and your website by getting you great placement on Google, Yahoo and Bing
  2. Help your customers find you by getting your business on Google Maps
  3. Ensure you stay top-of-mind through attention-grabbing advertisements in The Arizona Republic, the largest local newspaper in Arizona

Matt points out that the service is being fulfilled by OrangeSoda (which is now partly or majority owned by IAC). However there are likely other fulfillment partners in the mix as well, given the range of services above.

With the more aggressive entry of newspapers into local online market a noisy market grows louder for SMBs who are getting calls from ReachLocal, Yodle and WebVisible, as well as yellow pages, Groupon, and now newspaper sales channels.

One question is whether the local newspaper will be “trusted” or perceived as more credible by local businesses. OrangeSoda has a very strong reputation for SEO services and so the SEO core of the Gannett Local product could be effective.

ReachLocal, which just went public raised approximately $54 million out of an anticipated $100 million. The stock has gone up somewhat since last week and the company now has a market cap of $414 million. Goes Real Time

May 21, 2010

Local Matters is behind a redesign (and the related plumbing) of Ireland’s Golden Pages, owned by Truvo. On the homepage there’s a feature that shows recent searches being conducted on the site in quasi-real time.:

This is the latest in a crop of directory site redesigns aiming to create more user-friendly experiences.

Eniro Plugs in RFQ, Story Corrected

May 21, 2010

This story was originally incorrect. Swedish directory publisher Eniro has implemented its own RFQ solution. It is NOT working with Quotify. The information was sent to me by Quotify CEO Ben Ross and I didn’t look closely enough at it. My apologies for the confusion this may have created.

Here are some screens that illustrate the implementation:

Many publishers are implementing or considering implementing online booking and/or some version of RFP functionality. In the US Superpages recently launched vertical sites that include this capability. AgendiZe and a few others also offer online booking.

Quotify CEO Ben Ross put this in an email to me regarding the issue of potential “cannibalization” of the traditional revenue model:

I asked Jesper Karrbrink (CEO of Eniro) how they manage the cannibalization of their subscription revenue, with the introduction of this performance product and his response was “There is no cannibalization – because the advertisers need to a part of our database (ie. an existing subscription customer) and we offer it to them it as an added service, in fact, the advertisers pay 4000kr to be part of the RFQ program and it is helping them to grow their business…. they are happy to pay because the payback is tremendous, in fact we had over 1000 companies sign up in the first few weeks of launch”

Dex Contest Promotes Weddings Vertical

May 21, 2010

Dex is running a contest to promote its recently launched weddings site:

And this week 40 finalists were announced:

Selected from more than 1,000 entries, the finalists are comprised of brides and grooms seeking to win $10,000 by sharing how they plan to keep wedding costs low without sacrificing style and quality.

Now it’s up to the public to select the final four couples who will take home $10,000 apiece. Public voting is taking place from now until May 28, 2010 on the DexKnows Weddings website and on the site’s Facebook fan page. Winners will be announced June 2, 2010.

Celebrity wedding planner Yifat Oren — who has produced weddings for Kevin Costner, Mariska Hargitay, and Jason Bateman, among other high-profile clients – selected the finalists based on their creativity and inspiring alternatives to traditional and often costly wedding items.

It’s a smart idea and way to promote the site.

Next up, a reality TV show?

WebVisible: People Prefer SMBs to Chains

May 21, 2010

A new WebVisible-sponsored consumer survey (n=1,000), conducted by Synovate, found that most US consumers would rather buy from an independent local business than a chain or big box. No real surprises there.

According to WebVisibile:

More than 4 out of 5 consumers – 83 percent – choose to patronize a small, local independent business over a larger chain, and their top three reasons for doing so speak to values that have long characterized small business:

  • I want to support my community
  • The local merchant is more conveniently located
  • The service is more personal

Just 17 percent of American consumers say they don’t choose to patronize a small business over a larger chain.

Source: WebVisible (n=1,000)

The top overall reason was service, following by convenience. There were some demographic differences in the responses, however.

From the release:

Seniors  (over 65) were the only ones to put [service] at the top of their list of reasons to shop local.  That same group was more likely than any other age group to put “knowing – or being known by – the owner or an employee” at the top.

The youngest respondents were far more likely to cite convenience among their reasons to shop locally – 60 percent of those 18-24 placed it among their top three, while 48 percent of total respondents did the same.  Those in the 18-24 group were the only ones to give convenience the top spot overall, with 30 percent saying convenient location was No. 1, compared with 17 percent of the overall population.

A few demographic groups went against the norm to place “knowing – or being known by – the owner or an employee” among their top three reasons.  They were respondents who earn less than $25k a year, those with high school education or less, and respondents who are self-employed.


Related: WebVisible signs three-year deal with Sensis to provide SEM services to 600K Sensis advertisers.

Urbanspoon ‘Rez’ Challenges OpenTable

May 20, 2010

Publicly traded OpenTable has been the Microsoft of restaurant bookings, a proprietary hardware-software inventory management solution with Cadillac fees and effectively without competition for the better part of the last decade.  The company has a market cap of almost a billion dollars.

That was the beginning of an elaborate post I was going to do on Urbanspoon’s new “Rez” challenger to OpenTable. But the Wall Street Journal “broke the embargo” last night and then everyone piled on. You can read all the competing stories here.

So in lieu of the elaborate post I was going to do, here’s the “just the facts ma’am” version:

  • Rez was in beta in Seattle and LA with something approaching 150 restaurants for the past several months
  • It’s essentially a widget that goes on Urbanspoon, Citysearch profiles and I believe InsiderPages (and is distributed with those profiles via CityGrid to third party sites). It can also be added to the restaurant’s own site too
  • Many of the Rez beta testers were also on OpenTable; Rez can be used along side OpenTable
  • There’s an iPad inventory management app that replaces the elaborate hardware-software combination OpenTable requires
  • Fees for Rez (to the restaurant) are $99 per month plus a dollar per “head” per reservation. This includes new customers and repeat business. Urbanspoon/IAC won’t charge if the reservation comes from the restaurant’s own website however.
  • The Citysearch sales force will sell Rez to restaurants
  • OpenTable is already responding in Seattle by trying to cut prices and being more aggressive from a sales standpoint.

Here are a couple of images of the iPad inventory management app:

The bottom line is that this is a cheaper, simpler alternative to OpenTable, which the company will have to take seriously. It will probably force OpenTable to step up brand marketing and cut prices. If Rez gains visibility and “word of mouth credibility” among restaurant owners OpentTable’s growth may be slowed or stopped in some markets. Unofficially OpenTable has only about 10K restaurants across the US — a tiny subset of the entire population.

Citysearch and Urbanspoon can bring a compelling set of related marketing services along with Rez, which OpenTable cannot. And Rez can become a more generic online booking/appointments system for Citysearch and InsiderPages over time, extending to other categories beyond restaurants.

Now there’s an angle nobody else covered!

Trulia Wants You to Rate Your ‘Hood

May 20, 2010

This was probably formally announced in the past and I just can’t remember. But Trulia is soliciting reviews of neighborhoods to add to its data:

Yell (Finally) Buys UK’s TrustedPlaces

May 20, 2010

UK directory publisher, and parent of Yellowbook in the US,  has acquired social directory site and Yelp competitor TrustedPlaces. According to the press release out this morning:

The combination of Yell’s database of over two million businesses with TrustedPlaces’ proven expertise in generating recommendations from local consumers represents a major shake-up of the fast-growing local reviews market.

It will drive strong benefit to Yell’s 399,000 mainly small business advertisers, through generating additional leads and providing a richer online interaction with existing and potential new consumers . . .

Initially, TrustedPlaces reviews will be added to Yell’s business listings, leading to full integration under the domain.

The company also expects that the techniques and technologies that have made TrustedPlaces successful in the UK will be shared with other Yell Group operating companies in the US, Spain and Latin America.

Under the deal, Sokratis Papafloratos, chief executive and co-founder of TrustedPlaces, is joining Yell as head of social products in the UK.

This is a smart move by Mark Canon, Matthew Bottomley and company. It complements what they’re doing with and provides reach to a younger and more “urban” demographic; it’s sort of like AT&T’s The difference is that TrustedPlaces is an established site with an existing following.

Among the social directories in the UK, there are three main players: Qype, Yelp and TrustedPlaces. These three sites, I would imagine, had more traction in selected verticals with specific demographics vs. the more traditional Yell. The company will also have the benefit of Sokratis Papafloratos’ thinking about social media across its European properties and in the US to some degree.

I was urging Yell to do this in 2007:

Yell has pushed its digital properties in many interesting directions: products, mobile, classifieds. Though weighted down by regulatory controls in the UK, it also benefits by being the sole owner of the yellow pages brand.

Yell might want to look at acquiring or developing a property like TrustedPlaces to complement its traditional online directory product — if that isn’t an oxymoron.

TrustedPlaces had developed a strong property but was challenged to sell effectively to small businesses. I had this conversation a number of times with Papafloratos over the past couple of years. Most US local startups were in the same position; however emerging local ad networks such as CityGrid help take some pressure off by helping monetize page views and lookups.

As part of new digital-centric momentum and strategy, Yell recently did a major overhaul of its site, introducing several useful new features but most dramatically providing street-level photography to make the site more engaging and challenge Google Maps in greater London and several other UK cities.

TrustedPlaces has (or had) a partnership with the newspaper-owned LocalPeople, a network of “hyper-local” community sites. It isn’t clear whether that will continue beyond any existing contract period. It’s also not entirely clear whether the TrustedPlaces domain and brand will remain after “full integration under the domain.” I would hope that the company doesn’t shutter the property.


Yell’s CEO and CFO are leaving the company. This is an appropriate time for a leadership change given the larger context of advertising in the UK around Yell and the shift more aggressively into digital.

Y!’s Associated Content Buy Not ‘Game Changing’

May 19, 2010

Whether or not you think it’s confusing, misguided or “opens a can of worms,” Yahoo!’s $90-$100 million Associated Content buy seems to have a clear rationale in Sunnyvale. At Search Engine Land Matt McGee calls it an SEO play, which is a very interesting angle and largely accurate:

Yahoo is, of course, getting out of the search business — turning over its search engine to Bing. But in buying Associated Content, Yahoo is making a big SEO play. Hitwise told Danny Sullivan on Twitter a few moments ago that 55% of traffic to Associated Content in April came from Google. The Econsultancy interview I mentioned above cites a comScore statistic: 90% of AC’s 16 million unique monthly visitors come from search.

PaidContent has an interview with Yahoo!’s Media Vice President James Pitaro. I’ll give you the most relevant bits from the interview regarding the justification for the deal:

—rounding out content offerings within its own media sites.
—producing content directly in response to audience needs, “which is by the way something we’ve done historically but really will be able to scale now.’
—offering the the ability to get more local.
—providing the infrastructure to build content specifically for advertisers, allowing Yahoo to partner more easily, so the thinking goes, with advertisers and produce branded entertainment at a much lower cost with scale.

Advertiser-specific content is one of the three major ways Yahoo sees to make money from Associated Content . . . The other two: using their content to grow Yahoo’s own audience reach and engagement leading to more ad dollars and partnering with Associated Content to create new areas across Yahoo’s sites.

So very clearly there’s an SEO strategy, as well as the hypothetical ability to generate more “niche” (including local) content for Yahoo!’s O&O sites. Display ads, re-targeting and behavioral targeting will be a part of all of this. And one can see this as a further extension of Yahoo!’s network “off site.” Accordingly there’s a bit of Marchex in this strategy. Alternatively perhaps this acquisition can be seen as comparable to RightMedia in some respects, a kind of “RightMedia for content.”

Yesterday I argued that Yahoo! made a mistake by not buying a blogging platform (and the related content it would throw off). This is one answer to that objection. All these underpaid Associated Content freelancers (almost 400K) are essentially bloggers.

Yahoo! and others argue that the quality of articles produced by these legions of “digital serfs” is high. Perhaps. But the Internet is awash in crap content or, more politely, what might be called “perfunctory content” — content produced solely to generate page views and ad impressions.

In my view the content explosion that Associated Content, Demand Media and others are a part of is a long-term threat to Google and will have to be dealt with in some more aggressive fashion. It seems like I’m finding more and more “thin” content and general garbage in search results these days.

Yahoo! has always aspired to create its own content and this acquisition is consistent with that. Certainly there will be many more targeted page views to monetize with video and display ads. So Yahoo! could well see a near term lift. And it’s also possible that some of Yahoo!’s own properties will benefit from Associated Content. I don’t, however, think it’s a “game changer” for Yahoo! as CEO Carol Bartz has asserted.

Is the ReachLocal IPO Imminent?

May 18, 2010

I recently ran into someone from ReachLocal at a conference and asked whether the company had pulled its IPO. That had been the rumor circulating. I was told no that it was still a go.

This morning someone emailed me and asked if I was going to buy any ReachLocal stock when the IPO happened “later this week.” Beyond the fact that I don’t own any stock in any company I write about I said I hadn’t heard that the IPO was imminent. The person I was emailing said that he was being told by some friends in Wall Street firms that it was coming very soon.

Here’s the original S-1 filing from December 2009 and some interesting data about the company:

At September 30, 2009, we managed 17,600 Active Campaigns across 14,500 Active Advertisers, a substantial majority of which we calculate spend from $500 to $3,000 per month with us. Our clients include SMBs in a number of industry verticals, such as home repair and improvement, automobile sales and repair, medical and health services, legal services and retail and personal services. Since inception, we have delivered to our SMB clients more than 250 million geographically targeted clicks and 20 million phone calls. We employ 525 IMCs in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom and work with over 350 third-party agencies and resellers that use the RL Platform to serve their SMB clients. We intend to expand our IMC sales force both in existing and new markets.

We generate revenue by providing online advertising solutions for our clients through our ReachSearch, ReachDisplay, Remarketing, TotalTrack and other products and services. We reported $146.7 million in revenue in 2008 as compared to $68.4 million in 2007, an increase of 115%, and $143.3 million in revenue in the nine months ended September 30, 2009, a 37.5% increase as compared to the same period in 2008.

It will be great to have a public company as a kind of barometer (beyond the YP companies) for how the local segment is doing. However I think ReachLocal has several challenges:

  • Growing the advertiser base at rates sufficient to satisfy investors (though that’s arguably a formula that the company now has “down”)
  • Retaining advertisers (this is more challenging though Reach says its churn is lower than others)
  • Attracting and retaining quality sales staff at lower commission rates and salaries than they were making in YP positions

Public companies are subject to brutal pressure from the whims of fickle investors. The executives at Reach have worked hard and I wish them well. But I’m glad in a way that I’m not in their shoes.

Update: Joe Tartakoff at PaidContent just pointed me to confirmation that it is happening this week.

Yellowbook a Leading Android App

May 18, 2010

I was playing around in the Android Market last night and noticed that Yellowbook’s app is one of the top free apps — period. That was impressive to me.

It’s the top app in the “Shopping” category and a top 10 app (#10) among all free apps.

Even though there are still fewer Android than iPhone users, it has got to be the top mobile platform for the company.

This demonstrates that mobile can be a potentially meaningful driver of direct traffic for YP publishers.

Unsolicited Social Media Advice for Y!

May 18, 2010

I just got off the phone with someone talking about Yahoo! and social media, and that triggered some thoughts.

Yahoo! has been involved with social media for a long time. Yahoo! Groups and Answers are two early examples. There are also Flickr and Delicious and MyWeb (shuttered). And Yahoo! Local was one of the most “robust” user-generated local review sites in the pre-Yelp era. There was also the “smart in-box” Y! Mail strategy.

Yahoo! has thus enjoyed successes as well as failures and, in my view, seen some spectacular missed opportunities.

For example, back in 2006 I suggested that Yahoo! buy a blogging platform like WordPress or Six Apart. The company offered the relatively awkward Yahoo! 360 at the time. That service was subsequently shut down. And there are other examples of Yahoo! services shuttered before their time or insufficiently supported and emphasized (Yahoo! Fire Eagle is one of those, Neighbors is another).

Putting aside the rumored attempt to buy Foursquare, Yahoo! is planning on building out its social media assets further and reportedly going to be rolling out some new things in the coming months.

I think one potential acquisition the company should consider is Multiply. Originally a social network with a rich set of tools and capabilities, the site has become primarily a media sharing and storage site for adults/parents. Kind of an anti-Facebook, it would be a solid asset that Yahoo! could use and integrate with Flickr — and Shine, as well as other properties, I suspect.

Multiply has raised about $27 million in funding and could be acquired probably for under $100 million. Clicker is another company that Yahoo! should take a close look at because it’s social and cross-platform. And in some ways it’s a model of what Yahoo!’s social media strategy should be: a useful tool or content site, with community integrated into its fabric. RedBeacon would be yet another one. But direct involvement with lead-gen might not be where Yahoo! wants to go with its local strategy.

If Yahoo! hadn’t backed away somewhat from Shopping I’d also argue the site ought to get deeper into social shopping — a place where it was an early pioneer with the now dead Yahoo! Shoposphere. This sort of thing appeals to women in particular and is a very fertile area for promotions and advertising.

I’ll add one more: Yahoo! should look very seriously at the just-launched local coupon aggregator DealMap from Center’d. CEO Jennifer Dulski was GM of Local, as well as occupying other roles at Yahoo! before she left. She’d probably be ambivalent about going back but it would be a great asset for Yahoo! both in Shopping and Local.

Finally, in addition to any new acquisitions or product offerings, the company needs to exploit its existing assets. That includes renewed attention to Local (extending into mobile) and better exploitation of Answers in mobile.

Related: Yahoo! announced the acquisition of Associated Content. Below is the press release:

Yahoo! to Acquire Associated Content

Extending Leadership in Content With the Addition of 380,000 Contributors

SUNNYVALE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Associated Content Inc. This strategic move extends Yahoo’s ability to provide high quality, personally relevant content for the benefit of more than 600 million users as well as tens of thousands of advertisers. As Yahoo! enhances its social, mobile, local, and media offerings, the acquisition of Associated Content reinforces the company’s longstanding promise to offer the best of the Web — by combining Associated Content’s approximately 380,000 contributors who provide rich and varied content on a broad array of passion points, with Yahoo’s leadership in partnering with established content brands and the award-winning team of editors and experts from Yahoo!.

“Combining our world-class editorial team with Associated Content’s makes this a game-changer,” said Carol Bartz, CEO, Yahoo! Inc. “Together, we’ll create more content around what we know our users care about, and open up new and creative avenues for advertisers to engage with consumers across our network. These are important aspects of building engaging consumer experiences on Yahoo!, and one of the reasons why we’re one of the most visited destinations online.”

“The Associated Content team and our 380,000 contributors are looking forward to joining Yahoo! and to the opportunities that being part of a global Internet brand presents,” said Luke Beatty, Associated Content founder and president. “Combining our crowd sourced content with Yahoo!’s distribution, world class editorial team and online marketing leadership will accelerate our growth as we continue to leverage our best-of-breed platform to deliver high quality compelling content on more than 60,000 topics.”

For advertisers, this deal will expand Yahoo! into more topic areas and real-time content generation. The combination promises to offer advertisers even more opportunities to engage groups of passionate consumers in ways they will find uniquely appealing to their interests and tastes. Having insight into user intent through its leading search products enables Yahoo! to identify topics important to advertisers and users. Yahoo! plans to use Associated Content to create content around those topics and leverage Associated Content to contribute content to existing media properties. Associated Content also provides more opportunities for Yahoo! to partner and collaborate with publishers who can help the company shape the tremendous variety of content coming in, into something bespoke and even more engaging.

While current Associated Content content is U.S.-centric, Yahoo! expects to scale the platform globally.

Associated Content was founded by Luke Beatty in Denver, Colorado, in 2004. Associated Content receives more than 16 million unique users per month (comScore) and the editorial staff reviews more than 50,000 pieces of content per month, including articles, images, audio and video.

Yahoo! expects to complete this acquisition in the third quarter of 2010. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Rise of SMB Reputation Management

May 17, 2010

When I was at the CA governor”s conference on entrepreneurship a couple of weeks ago I was struck by how many small business owners in the session I attended raised their hands when asked about how many used Google Alerts to track what was said about their businesses.

Given the rising awareness among SMBs of review sites and social media it would appear there will be growing demand for presence/reputation management offerings. Indeed, there now appear to be a range of reputation management tools in the market or entering the market.

Marchex had the first formal tool, following MerchantCircle’s early rudimentary one. Then came Palore/AmIVisible’s “presence management” site and GetListed and Chatmeter, which offers SEO and reputation tools.

ClickFuel also has a tool as part of its suite that does some version of reputation management. Yodle also has an offering and so does ReachLocal (through the SMBLive acquisition).

Now I’ve become aware of reputation management offerings from VendAsta and Yellowbot. It makes sense that more companies would offer these tools because of the rise of social media and reviews.

The question is do these tools enable business owners to do anything other than see what’s being said about them and/or where they appear online? One of the nice things about Marchex’s platform is that it enables business owners to retweet or post selected reviews to their followers.

Are there other reputation management or presence management tools out there that I haven’t mentioned?

Update: Add SIM Partners to the list. And Marchex’s reputation management product is a finalist for “‘New Product or Service of the Year’ category of the 2010 American Business Awards…”

Yelp Announces SMB Advisory Council

May 17, 2010

This is something that Yelp should have done three years ago but better late . . . The company formally announced the members of the Yelp Small Business Advisory Council last week:

Yelp selected these folks from a reported 700 applications submitted. This is what they’ll be doing:

  • A trip to Yelp HQ in San Francisco, CA for meetings with Yelp’s executive team.
  • Participation in a monthly conference call that will provide early access to product and business updates, as well as the opportunity to offer feedback on features under development.
  • Ongoing meetings with Yelp’s individual business units to provide valuable input on existing features and policies and act as a sounding board for those in development.
  • Serve as a resource for other business owners who have questions about the services and tools on Yelp.

This is a very smart idea for all sorts of reasons: word of mouth, product development and so on.

Marchex Launches PPCall ‘Exchange’

May 11, 2010

Marchex has gone public with a “Pay-for-Call Exchange,” according to a press release out this morning:

The Marchex Pay-For-Call Exchange combines a robust telephony platform with campaign creation expertise and call filtering technologies to create, manage and optimize advertiser campaigns across more than 50 publisher partners in online, offline and mobile media. Additionally, advertisers have access to rich call analytics and customer intelligence, including caller geography and call recordings.

Advertisers that have joined Marchex’s Pay-For-Call Exchange have experienced significant ROI, including an average call conversion ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent for many advertisers, with some seeing as high as 50 percent; typical consumer engagement on the phone averages more than eight minutes, with certain categories and advertisers experiencing up to 12 minutes; and typical advertiser budget increases have averaged 200 percent of their initial commitment. Additionally, companies that have joined Marchex’s Pay-For-Call Exchange have been able to monetize their inventory more effectively.

While still in its relative infancy, Marchex has built a significant, growing customer and partner base for its Pay-For-Call Exchange, including leading digital agencies such as Razorfish, one of the largest interactive marketing and technology companies in the world; ADT, the world’s largest electronic security company; PRIMEDIA, a provider of online, print and mobile platforms that provide real estate rental listings; and Jingle Networks, the nation’s leading advertiser-supported directory assistance service at 1-800-FREE-411.

According to a brief discussion I had with Marchex’s COO Pete Christothoulou:

  • Marchex is acting as an agency in some respects and a network in others
  • The company is buying media on behalf of advertisers offline (including DRTV), online and in mobile
  • Marchex collaborates with advertisers on the creative
  • The company is highly conscious of the “bad calls” problem with PPCall and does “call filtering” and ad buys that seek to maximize good calls

The program has been running in a private beta for awhile. Look again at the conversion data cited in the release:

[A]n average call conversion ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent for many advertisers, with some seeing as high as 50 percent; typical consumer engagement on the phone averages more than eight minutes, with certain categories and advertisers experiencing up to 12 minutes . . .


Jingle Networks, cited in the release, had made an effort to create a version of this at one point. But to my knowledge this is a unique marketplace. I asked Christothoulou about the types of advertisers utilizing the service. He said that currently it’s mostly national advertisers and large advertisers targeting specific markets.

PPCall has never lived up to the early hype (that I helped create) but a combination of factors, including more aggressive use of PPCall in traditional media and the rise of mobile, may mean that it finally gets the traction among advertisers that its value proposition has always promised.

The DealMap: ‘CityGrid for Local Deals’

May 11, 2010

The friendly folks behind unassuming local-semantic search site Center’d have just launched what is probably the definitive local deal site on the Internet, The Dealmap. I wrote about it in a preliminary way in March after a brief discussion with Center’d CEO Jennifer Dulski.

Now there’s more detail out and the site has gone live.

Here are some quick facts gleaned from the press release:

  • The DealMap is available in the US and UK (the heatmap above indicates coverage areas)
  • There are daily deal emails and deal alerts via Twitter in more than 20 cities (all the individual group buying sites are here, and Foursquare)
  • Deals are coming from a wide range of sources: partner feeds, other coupon/deal sites, traditional media sites, directly from businesses and from users (there are game dynamics to promote the last of these)
  • Dealmap will also launch an iPhone application (Android and RIM too)

There’s also an API, which means that other publishers and developers can access all this content as well. This is, essentially, CityGrid for deals.

The DealMap site is a destination but also a hub that sits in the center of a distribution network that includes a range of partners (which will undoubtedly grow quickly) and sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The DealMap aims to deliver deals content to users in whatever way or form they prefer to receive it: via search/browse functionality on the site itself, through Twitter or Facebook or via email. You can see deals on a map (hence the name) or in list form. Users can also browse by deal category (e.g., restaurants, shopping) or type (e.g., expires soon, 50% off, kid-friendly):

Beyond compiling all this content through crawling and business development, The DealMap is trying to capture “hard to find” deals — the kind that appear in a local store window but never get advertised anywhere else. They’re trying to get users and businesses to upload these directly (via mobile devices for example) and are employing “game dynamics” (like Foursquare) to create incentives to do so:

At certain point levels there will be tangible rewards for users, like a traditional loyalty program, redeemable for (what else) discount coupons and offers at restaurants and other local businesses.

Sites like Yipit are seeking to do a version of this by collecting the content of group buying sites and pushing aggregated offers via email. Search engine Ask has also tried to do something similar and comprehensive with its “Ask deals” site. However The DealMap combines both approaches and seeks to go further with the user-submitted deals information (a la the early days of RetailMeNot).

A subtle but important point is that users can search for local deals and find them. Typically there’s not enough content on any given site enable search and make it meaningful.

Users can click through to the originating site or source or see more information on a “deals profile” page on The DealMap:

The breadth of content and functionality on this site are impressive. Yet the API strategy may be what makes this site and turns The DealMap into the most valuable component of Center’d’s business.

CEO Jennifer Dulski said that there were probably 100 sites that The DealMap was drawing upon, roughly 80% of which were some flavor of group buying sites. However use of The DealMap’s API could grow the number of sites (online and in mobile) that offer local deals in dramatic fashion. We’ll see how many local publishers jump on board.

The business model here is an affiliate revenue share. And coupons/deals is arguably the one area — even more than search marketing — where advertising is truly content, to use the online cliche.

Dulski and her team have created something in this site and strategy that should be enormously successful for all involved.

Two years ago I asked “Where Is the Coupon Destination?“:

From my point of view the deals/coupons segment is ripe for a next phase of development. There are numerous online competitors but, mysteriously, no one has really gotten it right. Part of the reason for that is that it’s challenging to get sufficient inventory to satisfy a broad range of consumer needs/use cases in a “search” context.

There’s also the forgetting to bring the coupons (mobile can help) and the stigma (for some) associated with using coupons.

Offline coupon clipping behavior is an interesting mix of both “search” and “discovery.” People actively look through circulars and newspaper/direct mail coupons. However they don’t necessarily know what they’ll find or what may be on sale. So there’s a bit of serendipity along with the directional behavior. I’m looking for coupons for things that I normally buy or that I need, but occasionally a coupon will prompt me to try something new or different.

I’m not sure that a pure search model or an “Oodle for coupons” is right. There’s some creative mix of community, search, discovery and content aggregation needed to make a coupon or deals destination work online. And the branding or value proposition shouldn’t be around “coupons,” which is too pedestrian.

Instead, branding should probably be around deals and discounts (for breadth). It should also start off small, like an insiders network. This is the way that Craigslist essentially began in San Francisco and built slowly over time.

With The DealMap I feel like that site has finally arrived.