Yearly Archives: 2011

Revisiting Favorite Local Onliner Posts From 2011

With IPOs from Groupon and Angie’s List, and IPOs in the offing for AutoTrader and Yelp, 2011 has been a big year for local online media and marketplaces.

I posted 177 posts. Some were “newsy.” Some were reviews. Some were basically conference coverage. A disproportionate amount of them focused on the deals space. While I hope the posts are thoughtful and objective, none, hopefully, offended anybody.

Thanks to all the Local Onliners out there and Happy New Year. Here are some top posts and personal favorites worth re-reading….

Top Takeaways from ILM West

ILM West: Google Exec Jeff Aguero Discusses Local Efforts

Reading Yelp’s S1:Rapid Growth, Amidst Challenges

Reassessing Groupon Prior to Its IPO

BOLO 2011: Agencies on Social Media, Integrated Marketing

‘Digital First’: A New Model for Newspapers

Angie’s List Provides New Details in S1

The ‘Common Elements of Successful Promotions’

So — Do We Buy Shares in Groupon? 8 Big Qs

Google Re-Thinks The Purchase Funnel: ‘Zero Moment of Truth’

ILM East: FourSquare Aims for SMBs (and National Marketers)

Kara Swisher with me at ILM West

Vertical Deals Continue to Spread

More vertical deals are being introduced, as vertical publishers with specific audiences seek to tie deals to existing content, and prove to have better conversion than watered down, one-size-fits-all approaches.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about Local Offer Network’s B2B efforts with Cardinal Health. Now, NimbleCommerce has been pushing on the vertical space, and announced today deals built around golf (GolfNow), kids (8moms by Kidville) and dining ( and Restoboom). GolfNow, for instance, will offer discount tee times and deals on golf-oriented travel, lessons and equipment.

The new offerings also anticipate building multi-merchant experiences, such as “stay and play” golf weekends with restaurant deals included. The additions make up for Nimble’s loss of OpenTable, which has dropped its deals offering.

“For vertical publishers, NimbleCommerce provides a number of advantages, including the ability to integrate deals tightly with content offerings,” notes a Nimble press release. “Publishers can offer the convenience of single sign-on, tie in to existing merchant portals and publisher content, and seamlessly deliver experiences and deals to mobile devices.”

CBS Goes Deeper with Local Content Via Deal

CBS plans to build deeper local online content by commissioning specific local topics for articles from thousands of writers at Both parties were mum about whether there is revenue sharing involved, but did note that writers will receive a different payment plan than they receive on

Leonard Brody, president of Clarity Digital, which is Examiner’s parent company, told BIA/Kelsey that the economics of the deal will make it profitable for both companies. Examiner has been approached by many media companies to lend its editorial resources. While such loaners of editorial resources aren’t likely to become a dominant revenue stream, “you may see us do a few more of these,” he says. CBS, for its part, is free to also work with other content aggregators and developers.

CBS brings to the table a network of 15+ city sites, such as CBS Denver, CBS Los Angeles, etc. Some sites have had customized content since December 5. “It is a great showcase, and brings great reach for content. It also provides strong credibility via the CBS brand,” says Brody.

While Examiner’s content for CBS will have some branding elements on it, the intent is not to bring people to, Brody emphasizes. It is CBS’ audience. CBS Local Media President Ezra Kucharz adds that the deal with Examiner is “a great way to augment our great content in local markets.”

Top Takeaways from ILM West

We’ve wrapped ILM West in San Francisco this week — another terrific show. Lots of great stuff. Thanks very much to the 50+ speakers, 32 sponsors, nearly 600 local leaders and various #ILMWest Tweeters who participated.

Now our attention is focused back on our research and analysis… and to ILM East March 26-28 in Boston, featuring an initial lineup that includes the great Ted Leonsis (here’s his Wikipedia entry), Jason Calacanis (CEO, Mahalo) Michael Zimbalist (dean of NY Times research), Jay Herratti (CEO, CityGrid), Michael Silberman (GM,; Charlie Kim (CEO, Next Jump); and Merrill Brown (Carnegie Fellow, co-founder MSNBC, Court TV, etc.)

Our goal with all the shows, of course, is to provide “context and contacts” for executives, entrepreneurs and investors building the local space. The testimonials now pouring in make us think that we were quite successful.

Internally, insights from ILM thought leaders, and the show’s in-depth research will definitely help the analysts from our six research programs shape the next waves of local innovation. Here are some of my personal takeaways:

1. No expectations of a runaway local winner. Some years, we think we’ve ID’d the next big thing. But this year, nobody really thinks that Facebook, Groupon, Living Social, Yelp or FourSquare is going to disrupt and run away with the entire market. This is one fragmented space. Google remains the only wildcard.

2. Time to rethink digital and traditional media separation. The New York Times, Washington Post, Morris and others have re-integrated their prints and online units. They’ve seen the light from Digital First. It gets better. The San Diego Union Tribune just named Mike Hodges, its digital leader, as president of the entire operation. But as Clark Gilbert points out, it is still important to delineate where it makes sense to integrate, and where it makes sense to keep operations separate.

3. Hail to the Phone! Or at least, to phone calls. As Marchex’s Matthew Berk brings up, the technology aids for search and discovery don’t point to replacing phone calls for leads. They point to reinforcing and supplementing phone calls. “The explosion of mobile is about being call-ready,” he notes.

4. There’s life in video and audio formats as add-on channels. We heard a lot from broadcasters at the show (i.e. Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman). What really struck us is what a great local promotional add on they are to Internet verticals (i.e. IHeart Radio). That’s mostly what they are.

5. We’re all in the games business – at least, a little bit. Kara Swisher disagrees, but games are being deployed in many walks of local, with new demographics, added frequency and stickiness. Just looks at what GrubHub is doing. It is something that leads providers learned years ago.

6. The deal platforms appear to be interchangeable, with little changing costs. We’ve been impressed by the development of white label deal platforms. But it was kind of shocking for us to see several major media outlets give so little credit to their platform providers.

ZVents Sold to eBay’s StubHub

The events listings space has taken a number of twists and turns with Zvents trying to steer people to retail events as a business model, and also become a media driver in its own right; Eventful focusing more and more on Hollywood studios and TV shows to drive viral demand for their entertainment properties; GoldStar focusing on quiet, sophisticated events; and others focusing on social media and transaction hybrids.

Not everything has worked out as planned. Today, ZVents announced that it has been sold to eBay’s StubHub. For StubHub, which is a reseller/scalper of events, it will get a chance to work ZVents’ list of events from 140,000+ local marketers and promoters. Typically, 60,000 events are listed at any one time.

It — along with other eBay properties — may also seek to do more with Zvents large network of newspaper partners. But that would likely be a second phase, if ever.

ILM West: Local’s Sherry Thomas-Zon on Next Gen Shopping

The ability to marry store inventory with search and promotions is an intriguing one for interactive local media. But what closes the loop on this vision?

Sherry Thomas-Zon, VP, Local Shopping, Local Corp – the new name for – suggested this week at ILM West in San Francisco that inventory can serve as an anchor for a 360 shopping offering. The key is to break the components of shopping into functional departments instead of making it “one size fits all.”

“The opportunity is to add value across the retail mix,” says Thomas-Zon, former President of Krillion, which was recently acquired by Local. You don’t just want to have shopping content. “You want a shopping module. It is what product search looks like on site in a mobile context.

Speed and convenience is a key part of it. Components include grab and go shopping, need it now, where to buy, nearby stores. She notes there are different types of shopping.

For instance, there might be high consideration items, contrasting with shopping types such as low cost replenishment, habitual purchases with limited decision making, big box stores, off price stores and small format products.

ILM West: Google Exec Jeff Aguero Discusses Local Efforts

Google’s local efforts have grown tremendously under the direction of Marissa Mayer, and now encompass a wide range of products, including Google Maps, Google Places, Zagat, Google Offers, and Get Online a new SMB initiative.

At ILM West this week in San Francisco, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero provided a rich portrait of Google’s thinking on local. “We are ten percent of where we are and where we need to be,” says Aguero. “There is so much that needs to be done.” He adds that Google is eager to work “closely with partners to create a rich opportunity” for all.

“The local experience is mostly disconnected,” says Aguero. “It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

Local is obviously an important part of Google’s core search business – 20 percent of desktop search is now local- oriented. But local is “fundamentally about places. Any type of action; how does it get there; how do you share what I am doing about my experience (i.e. photos, check-in); how do I save money on a deal?”

Within Places, Place Pages is a major effort. Currently, there are 50 million, dynamically generated Place Pages worldwide. Of these, eight million have been claimed by the business themselves. “It is the greatest catalog of place data on the Web,” notes Aguero.

The big trend is the convergence of Place Pages and Host Pages. “They have the same type of audiences in different ways, “ he says. “The functionality of both entities are likely to converge.”

Expanding ratings and reviews is also clearly a major initiative. Google Places is now getting more than a million ratings per month.

Mobile, meanwhile, is in the middle of it all. “Fifty percent of maps usage is mobile,” Aguero points out. “Mobile search usage has surpasses desktop usage on holidays. “People are using mobile phones as guides to the real world on an ongoing basis. Recently, the company introduced TalkBin, which leverages mobile to provide real time customer feedback.

Google Latitudes, a check-in product, is also is getting a lot of attention, and already has 10 million users. “It is not just how many people are enjoying and sharing products,” says Aguero, noting that Latitudes has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of Google Plus social circles.

And then there is Google’s Get Online initiative, a partnership with Intuit that lets SMBs claim a place, update information and provides a free web site. Get Online started in Michigan and is now in 14 states. New tools will continue to be added, says Aguero. “We need better toolkits for businesses.” Recently, the company introduced Adwords Express, which lets businesses set up an AdWords program in ten minutes.