Category Archives: HyperLocal

The “New” Learning Annex: Blending Online/Offline Celebrity, Hyperlocal

Before there were Meetups, Great Courses, TakeLessons.com and online dating services, The Learning Annex held sway. Launched 30 years ago in New York City, The Learning Annex provided classes on everything under the sun, and a way to meet people. Major topics have included self improvement, personal growth, entrepreneurship, wealth building, health and spirituality.

The company, known for its widely distributed print catalogs, has been evolving. Several years ago, it had a new wave of success promoting giant celebrity classes from the likes of Donald Trump, Tony Robbins, Suze Orman, Russell Simmons and Deepak Chopra, in addition to thousands of in person, hyper-local classes.

But what would a full service reboot look like for 2012? That ‘s the challenge for new CEO Dave Galvan, the longtime local vet who’d previously held executives slots with Schedulicity, Topix, InfoUSA and Yahoo.

Galvan tells us that the company is still going strong, but everything is being re-evaluated as it positions for future online growth. “Some things have done really well offline but did not resonate online,” he says. “We want to create the most exciting and dynamic online marketplace for knowledge…think ‘Air BnB’ for education,” he says. “There is no real leader in this space, it’s a wide open market and opportunity.”

He’s brought along a brand new product team to help with the task, and envisions the development of “of a great discovery platform” ” that allows the service to leverage the best of online and offline capabilities. “We could not have done this five years ago,” he says.

Launching late this summer, Galvan says the new Learning Annex will offer the best in offline and online education in a celebrity curated marketplace. Subsequent revs will include additional city roll outs, merchandising and new platform functionality.

Moocho’s Mobile Offers Aims at College Towns

Mobile local promotion and wallet services that marry offers to linked credit card accounts and track usage are proliferating. A partial roster of players includes Plum Rewards, MyFavEats, RewardLoop, AirPay and PunchCard. They’re all fighting for a share of smart phone users in a given community.

Why not just focus on college towns, which have a much higher percentage of smart phone dependent users? That’s the strategy behind Moocho, a self-funded company launched by a team that includes StubHub and Versity vets.

The company has initially launched for seven college towns, including Colorado State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, UC Berkeley, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia U. Students typically get $1, $2, or $5 off to try a place, and then loyalty points. All activity is tracked for loyalty and engagement. Parents can opt to have their credit cards linked and pay directly (and also limit purchase categories, such as alcohol).

With 22 Million college students, each spending $3k a year, the college market is huge. It also “lends itself to mobile payment app…better than any other vertical or national play,” says CEO Matthew Levenson. The company is seeking to get the top establishments in each market. “It won’t really work if students just use this in a few places that aren’t very relevant,” he says.

To get there, Moocho is hiring local sales vets from established local media, such as Pennysaver. “We are hiring full time pros, not students, says Levenson. “It is a very different commerce play; we need a very high batting average.” Given that these are relatively small markets, “we can’t churn and burn them.”

Google Integrates Zagat into rollout of Google+ Local

Zagat is Google’s great equalizer against Yelp. Google has now demonstrated why it paid $151 Million for Zagat last September by including Zagat, which formerly cost $4.95 a month (or $24.95 per year), as part of its new rollout of Google+ Local. The newly branded service replaces Google Places.

As a result of the integration, which will also feed into Google search results and maps, Google+ users will now be able to see reviews from their friends (and “acquaintances”) when they are looking up local information

While Zagat is known mostly for its 30 point restaurant reviews – more nuanced (and time consuming) than Yelp’s five star system — it now uses the same 30 point platform for 13 categories. More than 100 cities are currently served by Zagat. Outside of the restaurant space, Zagat had previously licensed its system to companies such as Anthem Blue Cross for medical reviews.

At ILM West last December, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero said “the local experience is mostly disconnected. 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.”

DataSphere’s $8 Million Infusion and The Two Camps of Hyperlocal

The vision for Hyperlocal – if you believe in it — boils down to two camps. The first camp says it is a labor of love that must be hand-curated to work with merchants and engage the citizenry, town-by-town. Perhaps sites can use shopping and other directory tools, like Local Thunder and ShopCity, to tie things together and scale.

That’s The Batavian for you. GoLocal24. The Magic City Post. And Baristanet. That goes for hyper-vertical sites too, like MedCity.

The second camp says that that the only realistic and scalable opportunity is in a centrally managed operation, providing tools, strategy and branding. Local managers and writers –and sometimes, local media brands, for credibility — might also be involved. With 864 local sites, that’s what AOL’s Patch is. And on a smaller scale, Main Street Connect and DataSphere.

Some people think of these sites as money holes, suffering very high churn from very needy SMB customers, and very small, fragmented audiences. Others think they have the kind of vision that will lead to real success.

Today we focus on DataSphere, whose funding has now reached $32.5 million, with an $8 million infusion this week by First Analysis as well as existing venture capital partners Ignition Partners and OVP Venture Partners. Fisher Communications, the northwestern TV station group, participated in earlier rounds.

DataSphere’s been working with TV stations around the U.S., using their brands and promotional capability to sell services to local SMBs. For the TV stations, these are all new dollars – the TV stations don’t traditionally sell to them.

To work with DataSphere, the stations (and other media partners) essentially had to reach the conclusion that they were never going to attack this market themselves, and that they didn’t mind splitting revenues they would not have otherwise made. These are probably fair assumptions: more so for a TV station than a newspaper.

In a recent discussion with us, SVP Gary Cowan said that DataSphere has found a sweet spot with SMBs, focusing on expertly targeted coupons and other features to show “clear and demonstrable value.” The coupons are broadly distributed, not only on local landing pages, but across a larger network of relevant sites, such as Coupons.com.

The company now boasts 100 media partners, and its ads are now targeted across more than 1,900 neighborhoods. Gannett, Fisher and Meredith are among its largest customers. It has 420 employees overall, mostly sales, and the majority of them work phone banks in Bellevue, WA and Tempe, AZ.

Hyperlocal is a core focus at ILM East, which features AOL Local’s Mark Josephson, Consultant Merrill Brown, Main Street Connect’s Zohar Yardeni, GoLocal24′s Josh Fenton and Fisher Communications’ Randa Minkarah. Register Here.

Google Offers’ Nitin Mangtani Set to Keynote at ILM East

Here’s what we’ve been waiting to announce: Google Offers’ head Nitin Mangtani will join our great list of keynoters at ILM East March 26-28 in Boston. We believe Mangtani’s appearance marks one of the first public debuts of Google Offers, which is playing a major role in Google’s vital local strategy, along with Google Places, Google Maps and Zagat ratings and reviews.

Previously announced ILM East keynoters include Groupon Vice Chair +++ Ted Leonsis; American Express SVP of Social Media Leslie Berland; CityGrid Media CEO Jay Herratti; New York Times Research Ops VP Michael Zimbalist; and New York Magazine Digital GM Michael Silberman.

Mangtani joins Google Channel Sales BizDev Head Christine Merritt at ILM East. Merritt will provide Google’s perspective on its emergence in the local ecosystem, and the most effective way to work with Google as a partner.

The next wave of Deals is, in general, a key focus for us at ILM East, along with mobile local media, social local media, video local media, hyperlocal and locally targeted national advertising.

In addition to the keynotes from Google Offers and Groupon, we have a special Day 1 session dedicated to the next wave of deals, featuring EverSave’s Jere Doyle; Find n Save’s Christopher Tippie; Closely’s Perry Evans; and Boomtime’s Bill Bice. That session will be followed by a broader view of deals and ecommerce, which featured NextJump’s Charlie Kim; Cartera’s Jim Douglass; and Bundle.com’s Jaidev Shergill.

Other recent adds to the program include The Boston Globe’s Lisa DeSisto, who joins Boston.com VP of Digital Products Jeff Moriarty as a presenter; and MIT Sloan Associate Professor Catherine Tucker, who gives the low down on the effectiveness of local social media.

Before the show, we’re making a special trip to The Boston Globe’s R&D Lab (Limited Space, RSVP required). Or come to Andrew Shotland’s SEO for the Enterprise session, which also features SEO Expert Will Scott and Advance Digital Media VP John Denny. We’re looking forward to a great show.

Venture Capital
•David Hornik, Principal, August Capital
•Scott Maxwell, Senior Managing Director, OpenView

Mobile Local Media
• Walt Doyle, CEO, Where
• Doug McDonald, Director, dotMobi
• John Valentine, VP, East Coast, SCVNGR/LevelUp

Hyperlocal
• Merrill Brown, Principal, MMB Media
• Josh Fenton, CEO, GoLocal24
• Zohar Yardeni, CEO, Main Street Connect

Social Local Media
• Geoff Cramer, CEO, Social Made Simple
• Adam Japko, President, Digital Sherpa
• Jeff Moriarty, VP, Digital Products, Boston.com
• Mark Schmulen, GM, Social Media, Constant Contact

Video
• Juan Delgado, Managing Director, Americas, Perform
• John McIntyre, CEO, Pixelfish
• Randa Minkarah, SVP, Revenue, Fisher Communications

Deals and Promotional Ecosystem
• Bill Bice, CEO, BoomTime
• Jere Doyle, President and CEO, EverSave
• Perry Evans, CEO, Closely
• Christopher Tippie, CEO, FindNSave

Transactions
• Charlie Kim, CEO, NextJump
• Jim Douglass, EVP, Retail Advertising, Cartera Commerce
• Jaidev Shergill, CEO, Bundle

National/Brands
•Adam Epstein, President, AdMarketplace
•Pete Gombert,CEO, Balihoo
• Steve Sherfy, Local & Mobile Search, GroupMSearch
• Karl Siebrecht, President and CEO, AdReady

Elections 2012
• Andy Slater, VP, Digital Agency Sales, Katz 360

SMB Marketing
• Dave Galvan, President, Schedulicity
• Maria Kermath, Director, AT&T Ad Solutions
• Randy Parker, President, SMBApps
• Darren Waddell, EVP, Reply.com

Sign up now (and hint: reserve your room earlier rather than later).

Milestone: Yelp’s IPO is Today

Yelp is IPOing today at $15 a share, allowing it to raise $123 million on a valuation of $900 million –$400 million more than it was apparently offered by Google a couple of years ago.

We know from the S1 that Yelp earned $58.4 million in net revenue in the first nine months of 2011, representing 80 percent growth over the first nine months of 2010. It also has 22 million reviews, and sees 61 million monthly users.

During the first nine months of 2011, the company claimed 19,000 paid accounts – up 75 percent from the same period in 2010, And 529,000 claimed pages –up 114 percent. Its ability to convert claimed pages into paid accounts is going to be where the action is.

It must also continue to penetrate deeper into restaurants, amidst tough competition from Google/Zagat and others. At the same time, it must continue to expand beyond restaurants deeper into shopping and services.

Restaurants and dining now make up 23 percent. Other major segments include shopping (22 percent), services (10 percent); beauty (9 percent); arts and entertainment (8 percent); Health (5 percent) Night Life (4 percent) and Travel and Hotel (4 percent). It also has a broad demographic, with 42 percent between the ages of 18-34, and 33 percent between the ages of 35-49.

Webinar: Ted Leonsis Talks Local, Live on Monday from The Verizon Center

It’s safe to say that Ted Leonsis is at the center of the local revolution. He’s done it all, from his early days trying to jumpstart ecommerce at RedGate, to his work building a local framework at AOL (i.e. Mapquest, Digital City, MovieFone, Studio Now); to his current role as Vice Chair, Groupon; Board Member, Amex; a Principal with the $450 Million Revolution Growth Fund; and of course, as owner of The Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and The Verizon Center.

What is Ted’s Take on key local issues? We’re talking live with Ted Monday at 3pm pacific/12 pm eastern in conjunction with his keynote at ILM East in Boston, which takes place March 28.

Sign up for the free Webinar. Registrants also get a discount code towards the conference, which is March 26-28.