Gannett, TV Stations Add WAPsites

Mobile versions of newspaper and TV station sites – WAPsites –have mostly been corporate vanity projects, generally attracting just a couple of dozen regular users. But as the demographics for enhanced mobile services has graduated from kids downloading ringtones and wallpaper to adults using news and weather, commercial prospects have improved.

Crisp Wireless CEO Boris Fridman, a venture-backed enabler of media mobile sites since 2000, scoffed when I suggested the number of users at most newspaper sites was still so low. He suggests that a number of local properties attract much higher numbers, perhaps deep into the hundreds (my guess).

“It is still very early in the game,” Fridman acknowledges. But there are beginning to be enough users to move away from subscription models and to rely more on advertising. While few local advertisers are currently demanding to get on the phone, mobile ad campaigns are now running for car companies, including Honda, Chrysler and Mercedes Benz, and packaged good makers like Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Most use short-form videos.

Local ’07: Hilary Schneider, Yahoo

Yahoo Exec VP Hilary Schneider, during her opening keynote to Kelsey Local ’07, emphasized that the company is really zeroing in on local to play a major role in Yahoo’s growth plans. Local search’sitself grew 28 percent in the last four months, per ComScore.

Yahoo sees local usage in five key segments: Maps, which brings in 32 million unique visitors; local news and information, which brings in 30 million; social media and classifies, which both bring in about 20 million; and directory, which brings in 18 million. “Local intent dominates the ‘needs set,’” share of overall search within Yahoo went from 11 percent to 14 percent in 2006, and local search says Schneider, citing top lookups such as maps, directions, nearby restaurants, stores, checking flight information and local movies.

Yahoo Local itself is pretty well built out, with 18,000 city pages and 80,000 zip codes. But it only has 600 neighborhoods. “There are obviously many more than that,” says Schneider. “ We have a long way to go.” Schneider additionally breaks out the local market as “national local,” with 17,000 businesses spending $22.4 billion in ad dollars; “regional local,” with 85,000 businesses spending $48.3 billion; and “local local,” with 22 million businesses spending $33.6 billion.

We’re Set! The ‘Final’ Lineup for Local ’07 Next Week

Getting down to the final wire…. we think the Local ‘07 program in Santa Clara next Tuesday and Wed. is looking really good.

Piper Jaffray’s Safa Rashtchy is the latest big add. Safa will be talking about PJ’s new report, The User Revolution, and we think he complements VSS’s Nick Veronis, who is talking about local online from the investment banking pov.

In our view, ALL the panels are really strong. But for fireworks, I especially like The Heavy Hitter panel, where top decision makers in every local sphere discuss what’s real, what’s important, and what’s hype. We’ve got Jacob Aqrauo, who runs classifieds for eBay, Gordon Henry from YellowBook, Chris Jennewein from The San Diego Union Tribune, Chris LaSala from Google and Michael Mathieu from Freedom Interactive.

LA Times.com seeks focus on Local, Mobile

The Los Angeles Times, a great newspaper that has been widely derided for its ineffectual website, hopes to turn the site around by bringing in Meredith Artley as its executive editor. Artley previously served as the Website director for The International Herald Tribune in Paris.

In a podcast by Sandeep Junnarkar at Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review – frustratingly, no transcript and hardly any text — Artley says her goals are to focus on local, while exploring possibilities in mobile. “We need to make the L.A. Times integral to the community at large…whatever way that takes shape” Artley told Junnarkar. She cites a broad list of possible activities, including database journalism, lifestyle coverage and user-generated content.

Artley notes that the L.A. Times already has a good building block in its Your Scene photo sharing feature. A recent series of photos focused on the snow in Malibu. “Readers are instinctively going to latimes.com to share,” she notes.

Yahoo Local Integrated with In-Car GPS System

Just in time for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, Dash Navigation Inc. said that it will integrate Yahoo Local features into its dedicated, in-car GPS system. The announcement basically recycles statements made by Dash execs at DEMOfall in September, but hey, I missed it then too.

Dash’s Express unit is the size of a small paper back book and plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter. When the service launches –a scheduled January launch has been pushed back to “spring” — it will have a monthly premium, probably in the $7.95-$12.95 range. The service is backed by high profile VC players, including Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia and Skymoon Ventures.

While other traffic systems are proliferating, Dash’s differentiator is going to be the integration of the Yahoo local info, which will help users select local services and find them on-the-go (i.e. Chinese Restaurants). Another differentiator is that the service provides real time traffic reporting that complements highway-based GPS reporting (often provided by local authorities) with anonymous reports from other Dash-equipped cars to figure out how fast traffic is really going.

10 Local Trends That Greet The New Year

Year-end reviews are always kind of arbitrary. For sure, a lot of overlap occurs from year-to-year. So much of what we consider “the ‘60s,” for instance, really happened in the early ‘70s. But clearly, r/evolution is happening in local, the Internet’s last frontier. Here are ten things we all saw in 2006.

1. Google and Yahoo have most certainly broken out a lead in local search, with a 70 percent combined share. All the others belong in a subset. But the subset, of course, can be lucrative too.

2. Local search isn’t everything, by a long shot. The key question: how fast will Google and Yahoo migrate beyond local search, impacting classifieds, brand/display and Yellow Pages. It ought to take awhile.

HopStop Pushes Transit as ‘Urban MapQuest’

The power of road mapping and directions sites like MapQuest and Yahoo Maps is now being channeled by HopStop, a New York-based startup providing the same type of complete info for walkers and subway and bus strap holders in major cities. In addition to standard mapping and direction info, the site hosts city guides and enables users to share tips on construction delays, rate various lines, and so forth.

The ad-supported site is being financed by IDT Ventures, a VC firm. It launched in January 2005, and has been syndicated on a co-branded basis to The New York Post and AM New York. It now claims 750,000 unique visitors per month – 95 percent in New York.

The site has had some agency support for nearby businesses and urbanite brands, and its advertiser roster now includes Wachovia Bank, New York Times, Volkswagen and Dewers Scotch. Wachovia, for instance, uses the site to promote a $50 metro card to customers opening new accounts at branches next to subway stops. In addition, Amex is using the site to promote its InNewYork imprint.