Archive for the ‘User-generated content’ Category

Koprol & the Rise of the ‘Social Cityguide’

May 25, 2010

Yahoo! bought an Indonesian site you’ve never heard of: Koprol. It didn’t spend a lot I’m sure; the site is young and still in beta.

At a high level the site mimics the functionality of Foursquare. It’s about mobile access to local information and social content (updates, friends’ comments).

It appears to have traction in its home market of Indonesia, but will it succeed in the US and Europe? That’s not clear; but it’s a platform that Yahoo! can use and develop in a few ways. It may extend Yahoo! Local or it may exist independently. We’ll see.

Stepping back, what the acquisition reflects however is the rise of the “social cityguide,” which integrates PC and mobile with Twitter/Facebook-like update streams and brief reviews (thumbs up + “tips”). Yelp in particular will need to contend from a movement toward shorter content and away from long-form reviews.

I can’t remember who it was I was speaking with but the discussion was of Yelp as the equivalent of a blogging platform for its most active members.

Foursquare, Latitude/Buzz, AT&T Buzz, Gowalla, among others are reflective of this new trend toward a marriage of location, mobility, social and quasi-real time communication or exchange. And as the world of “local” becomes increasingly mobile this trend and the competition will intensify.

These social cityguides are potential successors to traditional sites used for entertainment-related lookups. They probably won’t be used for home services but they could take over for restaurants and select other categories. (Facebook, with its impending location launch, Q&A and Like button is lurking in the background.)

I’m not sure how it’s doing but AT&T Interactive is wise to experiment with a site like Buzz.com for several reasons. For a younger, mobile audience a yellow pages site or app will have difficulty competing with Foursquare, Yelp and this new category of social cityguides.

People often ask me what are the big trends I’m seeing in local. Well . . . this is one of them.

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.

Newspapers Turn to Content Farms for Copy

May 24, 2010

Increasingly it appears that newspapers are outsourcing content — good old fashioned writing — to content farms. Associated Content, just acquired by Yahoo! for about $100 million, has online newspaper deals. And so does rival Demand Media. According to a BNET article appearing last week:

Demand Media has just announced to its freelance writers and editors two new content deals that further its reach into traditional media. The company is about to partner with Hearst Newspapers to produce content for two web sites run by two Hearst papers: the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle . . .

For its normal web pieces, a typical Demand Media rate for an article of a few hundred words is $7.50, with copy editing paying about $3.50 an article, according to many freelancers I’ve communicated with who work for Demand. To make a reasonable amount of money per hour, writers have to research and compose multiple articles an hour, setting a difficult pace.

Content Farms are being used as a kind of back-door SEO strategy but also to perform core writing functions (now) that used to be done by staff writers. The chief attraction is the low cost of these services as well as the volume of content they create.

The writers are (self) exploited. Many of them may be competent and know something about which they’re writing but the system, with its low payments, rewards speed — not quality.

This is lamentable and will tarnish the newspaper brands using services like Demand to turn out the mediocre copy — intended to capture and generate display ad page views. If this is the mindset now and what newspaper publishing has become about then let them crash and burn.

In the end Google will be compelled to deal with content farms — the new spam — and everyone relying upon them will be punished in one way or another. In retrospect these strategies will look penny wise, pound foolish.

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?

Yell (Finally) Buys UK’s TrustedPlaces

May 20, 2010

UK directory publisher, and parent of Yellowbook in the US, Yell.com  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 Yell.com 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 Yell.com and provides reach to a younger and more “urban” demographic; it’s sort of like AT&T’s Buzz.com. 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 Yell.com 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.

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.

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.

SMBs Need a Lot of Help Online

May 10, 2010

I attended The [California] Governor’s Conference on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last thursday at the Oakland Convention Center. One of the sessions I sat in on was about social media and online marketing. It was the mirror of an identical session in the morning that I was unable to attend.

The panelists included representatives from Google, Yelp, Twitter (where I got the sticker), Cafe Press and the California Restaurants Assn. Each panelist got to talk for about 5-10 minutes and then there was a Q&A session.

While there was some sophistication, the Q&A session revealed just how much help most SMBs need. Yelp’s Vince Sollitto, who was on both panels, said that the earlier session had a higher level of sophistication and greater engagement.

I took a lot of notes but I’ll summarize and provide a few observations.

More people in the room had a facebook page than were AdWords advertisers. But about 3/4 of those in the audience were on LinkedIn.

Google’s Claire Johnson spoke repeatedly about claiming listings on Places and about search marketing. It became clear however that most of these folks were very far away from search marketing.

Most of those in the audience were familiar with and used Yelp as consumers, but only a few had used the business tools. Yelp’s Sollitto said Yelp had 31 million uniques and 10 million reviews. He addressed the issue of negative reviews by saying, “negative reviews are an authenticator” and provide credibility — ironically. Not sure if those in the audience bought the argument. When he cited the URL, biz.yelp.com, however, lots of people wrote it down.

Francesca Helina of Twitter talked about tweeting “on the go” and discussed Twitter apps as the best and most convenient way to tweet. She hinted at a number of services for SMBs to come and discussed Twitter’s window sticker. She briefly mentioned Promoted Tweets, but focused on the free service. She referenced two accounts (@smallbiz and @Francesca) where marketing on Twitter and best practices would be showcased.

John Goddard of the California Restaurant Assn said that 73% of CA restaurants were independent. He talked about how many have adopted social media and Twitter in particular. “A lot of chefs are blogging” and building social media strategies around their blogs, said Goddard.

I was somewhat surprised to see how many in the audience were using Google alerts (roughly 1/3) as a basic form of reputation management and review monitoring.

Café press extolled the virtues of search marketing saying “30% of our business from Google search.”

The moderator, a woman from Palo Alto Software, threw around tips and jargon that were generally way over the heads (from my perspective) of the audience. Indeed, most of the discussion from the podium was more advanced than the people in the room — sometimes painfully so.

This is an extreme example, but one woman asked for advice on what types of content would make her website (which she hadn’t developed yet) interesting. This reflected to me the very basic level of understanding — or lack thereof — of online marketing possessed by some small businesses.

One older woman, selling Japanese medicinal herbs, talked about her frustrations with consultants who made big promises about SEO and high rankings (There’s a ton of that going on out there.)

I conduct surveys of SMBs and talk about their issues frequently in the abstract. But it’s very helpful to be in a room like this from time to time to see the challenges they confront in a very direct way. For them the world is only getting more complicated and, while there is growing awareness and sophistication in some quarters, the smallest SMBs need a lot of help — a lot.

___

Related: Google offers a co-branded (with the SBA) site/tutorial on online business marketing fundamentals.

Citysearch Plans Reputation Mgmt Offering

May 10, 2010

Kate Kaye of ClickZ interviews Citysearch’s Neal Salvage about CityGrid and the general SMB ad offering from Citysearch. From my point of view, here are the interesting parts of the article:

According to Neil Salvage, Citysearch’s EVP of advertising, the ultimate goal is to reduce the number or offerings and sell them on a flat-fee basis rather than a performance-basis . . .

Citysearch currently allows advertisers to update their company profiles displayed across the Web through the platform associated with its CityGrid listings distribution system. They can also respond to reviews posted about their businesses using the platform.

“In the next quarter, we will be expanding our capabilities to offer merchants even more robust reputation management capabilities such as reviewing reviews from across CityGrid, sentiment analysis and more,” explained Salvage.

The SMB online ad market is bifurcating somewhat, with a movement toward performance products in some quarters — Yelp just (re)introduced CPC — and fixed fee products otherwise (Citysearch). The group buying sites arguably represent the ultimate in performance-based marketing for SMBs.

Beyond this, some version of “reputation management” (an elastic category) is coming to most if not all SMB ad sellers/channels. It will ultimately be like SEO, just a part of the package.

Right now the most developed product is the one offered by Marchex. However AmIVisible (presence), Chatmeter and ClickFuel also have offerings with varying degrees of functionality.

If there are others out there, please let me know.

Webinar Tues: ‘Evolution of Local Discovery’

May 8, 2010

Through Internet2Go, I’ll be doing a webinar with AT&T Interactive on the “Evolution of Local Discovery.” It’s an expanded yet more intimate version of the session we did at AD:TECH a few weeks ago.

I’ll be trying to put together the big picture and talking about the movement from print to online to mobile. I’ll also be discussing some of the new LBS services and the “geotagging of everything.”

The webinar is free at will take place at 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific on Tuesday, May 11.

For more information or to register go here.

Foursquare Adds ‘Like’ Button to Profiles

May 7, 2010

Foursquare is the latest to integrate the Like button from Facebook:

Beyond Yelp and YPG in Canada, and now Foursquare, who else in local is using Like?

Yell Upgrades Maps, Introduces Streetcam

May 7, 2010

UK directory publisher Yell has implemented a number of changes to its site, the most significant of which include new 3D maps and street-level photography. Yell worked with companies C3 and Tridoo to generate the imagery.

Right now the coverage includes London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. Like Google Street View, you can “walk down the street.” It’s enormously useful for tourists and travelers, as well as house hunters, etc.

Here’s Google, first:

Now Yell, which offers a combination of street-level images with Bing style aerial and 3D views:

Of course Bing doesn’t offer this yet in the UK. And Big G doesn’t have the oblique and orthogonal images from above.  

These new maps really transform Yell.com and pose the first real challenge to Google Maps in the UK. Overall it appears to be a terrific user experience that adds huge value to Yell.

Separately Yell has also introduced a video channel:

The introduction of a separate Yell.com video channel that will enable businesses to showcase their business in video for inclusion in our listings. Coverage is limited at first, with the majority of videos in central London. However, we have enabled businesses to upload videos for free and we will be taking steps to further promote video as a valuable part of the marketing mix for all SMEs.

Finally, they’ve introduced what they’re calling “Shortlists” (essentially favorites) to “enable consumers to create a list of favourite businesses that can be shared by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. In addition, it will now be possible for much wider viral sharing of any video or site page, including business listing, search results, map view.”

I have written, about AlikeList, Fablistic and CityVoter in the past, that such “top lists” and favorites are extremely useful to people and create an additional source of qualitative ranking data about businesses beyond reviews.

Yell has had many redesigns and upgrades in the past few years but this both simplifies and enriches the user experience. Overall it dramatically boosts the utility of the site.

My Plan to Overthrow ‘Pizza’ with ‘Sushi’

May 6, 2010

Pizza (or plumbers) is always the local search example used in demos and discussions. My plan has been to supplant “pizza” with “sushi.” I use “sushi” in all my examples at conferences and on this blog as a “generic” local search.

If you watch this video interview with Bing’s local product head Mikko Ollila you’ll see him use the “sushi” example unselfconsciously. My (secret) scheme is working 🙂

Yelp Says ‘Bonjour’ to French Market

May 5, 2010

BON-jour! Yelp is now available en Francais. Yelp.fr is the first non-English-language site for the company. The press release also says that “Yelp users everywhere will have the option to view Yelp’s interface in French or English, as well as write and access reviews in these supported languages via a link at the bottom of any business listing.”

Also:

The launch of Yelp France underscores the site’s increased effort towards broader availability in Europe. In April 2010, one million unique visitors consulted Yelp UK and Yelp Ireland, with the vast majority of that traffic coming from London. Reaching one million unique visitors after 16 months is an even faster growth rate than Yelp experienced in its first U.S. market of San Francisco and a strong indicator that Yelp is poised to gain the same type of traction in Europe.

Part of the $100 million from Elevation Partners was toward additional international expansion. Germany would be a logical next non-English European country. And in Asia I would imagine Japan would be first.

vFlyer Adds FB to Listings Distribution Network

May 5, 2010

vFlyer is intended to simplify the process of distributing local (mostly real estate) listings around the Internet. Like others the company is also trying to solve the local “fragmentation problem.” All the Local SEM firms offer a version of this service too. As part of that vFlyer has added Facebook to its “network.”

The new functionality now allows real estate professionals to show their listings as part of their Facebook pages:

Earlier Roost introduced similar functionality.

MerchantCircle Releases API

May 5, 2010

MerchantCircle has released an API, which allows third parties to incorporate or build on top of the company’s content and listings:

  • Over 2 million pieces of unique, merchant-generated content such as blog postings, videos, and pictures.
  • Over 650,000 local business reviews contributed by local consumers
  • Over 350,000 current, local deals and coupons created by local businesses
  • Over 80,000 questions and 100,000 Answers from the MerchantCircle Answers Program

Companies that will be utilizing this include Citysearch/CityGrid, FootFeed.com, HelloMetro, 8coupons and Locomatix.

Between MerchantCircle, Facebook, Twitter, CityGrid, Foursquare and other local APIs in the market, the amount of local content available is exploding. There’s also a ton of valuable local content locked up in Yahoo! Answers right now too.

It used to be that there was a shortage of local data and reviews, now we’re almost approaching the opposite problem. Now the challenge becomes de-duping, integrating and elegantly presenting this via the PC and mobile devices.

We’re in a new era in local for sure.

InsiderPages Finds Its Voice with Doc Finder

May 5, 2010

InsiderPages, which was purchased several years ago by Citysearch/IAC, just introduced reviews of doctors and dentists. It joins Angie’s List and ZocDoc in offering this information. There are a couple of smaller sites that do a version of this as well, including Ratemds.com.

Angie’s List is a subscription-based model and ZocDoc doesn’t have the same national review coverage. ZocDoc does offer online appointment booking however.

The ratings content here comes from InsiderPages’ and Citysearch reviews and from a partnership with HealthGrades. The key innovation, not totally unique to InsiderPages, is the ability to sort by insurance carrier as well as other criteria:

Most people today are forced to go to their carriers’ sites, which generally offer a bad user experience and little or no valuable information about the doctor or dentist him or herself.

In addition to the insurance carrier filter, users can filter or sort by medical specialty, distance, gender, language, board certifications (and the all important “clean record”). InsiderPages GM Eric Peacock told me that he thought they had reviews for roughly one-third of all doctors and dentists in the US, with higher coverage in major metros.

In addition to reviews InsiderPages is providing HealthGrades’ patient survey information, which offers responses to standardized questions about the patient experience with the doctor or dentist:

When I spoke to Peacock yesterday it immediately struck me that this area would help define InsiderPages. He said that indeed doctor finder will become an area of emphasis and focus for the site, though it will still offer restaurant reviews and other categories.

He also said that over time the business/ad model would probably move into lead-gen for the doctors and dentists on the site.

As a side note, InsiderPages is going to probably get a ton of SEO traffic here as they create pages like “Family Practice Doctors San Francisco.” This is an advantage that the site has over virtually all the competitors in this segment.