Web exec Bill Day, who formerly led WhenU (a behavioral targeting firm), About.com and Prodigy, was announced yesterday as Marchex’s new Chief Media Officer (an interesting title). The position is a new one for the publicly-owned company, which isn’t well understood, but has considerable local assets, including 100,000 vertical domains, an ad network, and OpenList.
Day says he was attracted to Marchex for a variety of reasons. “It does a very solid job of putting together the pieces,” he says. “It has local advertisers, relationships with Yellow Pages companies; and it is reaching out and developing new advertisers. On the content side, “it’s in a really strong space for building out a local content network. Local is really primed to be successful,” he adds. “The payoff will be huge.”
One of Marchex’s real jewels, says Day, is OpenList, which crawls the Web to aggregate local information. He sees a host of new opportunities from mixing OpenList with the vertical domains and local blogs. “Blogging is definitely catching on. We’ll take a little time working it.”
Is Day’s hiring a sign that Marchex wants to re-create About.com’s pioneering system of paid local guides? Day is non-committal, but confirms there may be a mix of user generated content (i.e. bloggers and reviewers) and independent contractors (i.e. guides and editors).
In Day’s view, the key to Marchex’s success is to make the content really comprehensive. As the co-founder of About.com, Day notes that the original business model was for it to be 50 percent local, and 50 percent “interest based.” But it was the latter that took off. About.com’s local strategy ended up being a Georgetown here, an Upper East Side there. “It was easier to do. People found topics that really interested them,” says Day.
“The reasons things haven’t worked at the local level is that it hasn’t been comprehensive enough,” he says. “You can’t just have things for three cities. Marchex’s various content and advertising components allows us to “put together something very comprehensive.”