Category Archives: National Local

Zillow to Buy Trulia; Will Pursue Twin Brand Strategy

Zillow is buying Trulia, its chief rival, for $3.5 Billion in stock. The two companies – both nine years old — have a lot of overlap currently. But after the deal closes in 2015, they will seek to develop two differentiated marketplaces for real estate-related information, which includes house sales, rentals, mortgage and related national and local advertising.

As the acquiring company, Zillow would focus on “top of funnel” awareness advertising. Trulia, meanwhile, would focus more on specific agent-related, final purchase (or rental)- related advertising. According to ComScore, Zillow attracted 83 million unique visitors in June, while Trulia attracted 53 million. Roughly half of Trulia’s visitors do not visit Zillow.

The proposed purchase price, roughly $70.53 a share, represents a 25 percent premium over Trulia’s current stock price. Combined revenues from both companies could produce $721 Million in 2015 under present conditions, according to estimates by Benchmark Research. Separately, the companies estimate $100 million a year in cost savings by eliminating redundancy. Under terms of the agreement, Trulia CEO Pete Flint will report to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

In our view, the primary goal of the acquisition isn’t to build the one-two punch of differentiated real estate sites, or even to maximize cost savings from eliminating overlap. Mostly, it takes Trulia out as a rival company, and per GeekWire, it also ends apparent merger talks between Trulia and Move.com, the #3 Real Estate site that controls the NAR’s Realtor.com site. (It also isn’t the first time Trulia has considered selling itself. Google apparently was interested in buying the site in 2009 when it was pursuing a major listings effort).

Over the next several years,the effort to differentiate the two sites make more sense than to collapse them into one brand. Such a strategy would be reminiscent of what AutoTrader.com has accomplished with KBB.com; The Weather Co. has accomplished with Weather Underground; and what Match.com has accomplished with the purchase of several dating verticals.

Winning national advertising dollars is especially viewed as a key growth area. Zillow has budgeted $45 million in marketing dollars this year to accelerate that effort. Zillow, perhaps best known for its controversial Z-Estimates, sees a unique advertising market among speculative home browsers, targeting everything from landscapers to auto companies. Trulia, meanwhile, has been less controversial than Zillow in the Realtor community and might be a better brand for Realtors to work with.

Will there be anti-trust issues? Both Zillow and Trulia tend to draw from Realtors and brokerages that are digitally minded in their advertising. Zillow head Rascoff, however, suggests that the market is nascent and represents less than 3 percent of the $12 Billion market in real estate advertising.

We don’t know about that. The reality is that the two companies actually tie up a great deal of the linkages between real estate advertising and distributors, such as the search engines, local media companies and others. But ultimately, it probably falls short of real anti- trust concern.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff at a recent BIA/Kelsey conference

UBL, MomentFeed Partner to Leverage ‘National Local’

In the mobile era, listings are increasingly useless without context. Businesses need to be found via LAT/Long; and they need to shape their business identity using all the tools at their disposal. In recent years, it has gotten even more complex with the addition of social media, content marketing and other channels.

No one has emphasized these realities more than UBL CEO Doyal Bryant. Hence UBL’s newly announced global partnership with MomentFeed, a provider of a digital marketing platform that connects brands and consumers at the local level for top brands ranging from 7-Eleven and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to JCPenney and The Home Depot.

Together, UBL and MomentFeed are seeking to establish a new mobile social anchor for business search and discovery. Besides the Enterprise customers both companies are working together on, they will be working with UBL’s SMB channels to integrate social media with its presence and profile management.

BIA/Kelsey talked this week with UBL CEO Doyal Bryant and MomentFeed CEO Robert Blatt to get their perspective on why this partnership will be compelling.

“When we began (several years ago), it was all about the website,” said Bryant, who noted he has already sent “thousands” of customers to MomentFeed. “You built a profile and focused on being found and having it all sync correctly. But it’s changed due to what is happening with social media and fragmentation.” The change has become “core to the business,” he said.

MomentFeed’s Blatt seconded the thought. It is amazing how much we have moved from the search paradigm of 18-24 months ago,” noted Blatt. “Now search has moved to mobile devices. It has moved off the browser onto the App.”

“Your top priority is suddenly claiming your Google Plus page, and making sure the Facebook Local Page is running, and that there is a place page for each location on your website,” said Blatt. “And that there is accurate and engaging content and interaction for all three places between suppliers and retailers at both the national and local level. That’s the future of digital shop and marketing.”

Blatt feels that MomentFeed’s partnership with UBL allows businesses to get the best of both worlds. They can help businesses “do the job” on Facebook, Google, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp (and soon, Bing), as well as the multitude of listing networks that are often vertical market specific, such as restaurants and travel.

Looking forward, the focus will be on the engagement piece. MomentFeed has taken a lead in turning Instagram into media, for instance. “We let businesses do it, curate it, and then send a follow-up letter,” he said.

Tracking business results via analytics will also be key. It all leads to a linkage between marketing activity and business results, said Blatt. The company will correlate the marketing activity around a location with the revenue and foot traffic at that location.

Analytics Take Center Stage: Where2GetIt Acquires Brandify

Analytics are moving center stage for many “platform” companies previously anchored in features such as maps, search, deals, store location, directions, listing updates and enhancements.

The trend – a real one — was reinforced today by Where2GetIt’s announcement that it has acquired Brandify, the Washington D.C. area based provider of analytics for 26,000 local businesses.

Brandify provides feedback on digital marketing efforts based on 200 + variables, including reputation, local SEO performance, social engagement, competitor benchmarking, reviews and comments, business listing analysis, and locator traffic. Where 2 Get It envisions Brandify “bridging the gap between its online and offline features” with “real time local insights.”

Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey, said that many of the company’s multi location customers — ranging from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shops to Hunter Douglas shades — have been asking for a more comprehensive solution.

“They are faced with knitting together a patchwork of point products and services to protect their brand, improve visibility, local listing management, and local monitoring,” said Patel. Brandify “scores” their effectiveness in key areas, and makes it easier for them to determine how effective they’ve been.

While Brandify will continue to be developed as a standalone service for small and medium businesses, it will also be integrated into Where2GetIt’s platform for national brands and multi-location services, Patel added.

Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel is presenting a DEMO today at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: The National Impact in Atlanta

Yodle Launches Centermark for National Local Entities

One of the hottest trends in local marketing is “National Local,” which accounted for 32.1 percent or $42.5 billion of the $132.5 billion spent on local media advertising in 2012. BIA/Kelsey projects that national’s share of local ad spending is expected to grow to nearly $51 billion by 2017. While sometimes obscuring “local local” marketing efforts (i.e. SMBs), the rapid rise of Mobile, effective Geo Targeting and marketing automation has permitted local to scale in unprecedented ways for national brands, franchises and retailers.

Yodle, for one, has been really zeroing in on maximizing its national local opportunities. The company provides marketing services to 40,000 local businesses, including a wide swath of national providers, such as Merry Maids and Miracle-Ear.

Today, the company announced the formal launch of its Centermark suite for such national local players. The suite has been launched as part of The Yodle for Brand Network division – as of July, its revised name for national local services. “Not all brands are national, and many national organizations don’t view themselves as brands,” noted SVP Fred Voccola, in explaining the new name.

Centermark’s various features include local SEO, social, local mobile and scheduling services. It has been in beta for the past six months with 2,000 customers, including franchisors, manufacturers and multi-location operators.

Voccola explains that the company’s primary goal with Centermark is to provide a consistent local Web infrastructure that provides better SEO and ultimately, conversion rates and ‘actionable business intelligence.’ It is not just to understand what the revenue was. We’re interested in what lead sources were used,” and external factors that may have contributed to a sale or other type of engagement, including left field factors that defy conventional wisdom, such as interest rates or weather, he says

More critically, the use of suites like Centermark can strengthen the bond between national brands and their local entities, says Voccola. At BIA/Kelsey, we have observed that weak online and mobile offerings from brands have caused many franchisees to take control of their own marketing activities, often with mixed results. That probably doesn’t serve anyone’s goals.

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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Gannett Digital Marketing Solutions Rebrands as G/O Digital

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Gannett Digital Marketing, the umbrella division of Gannett that includes ShopLocal, BlinQ, PointRoll, DealChicken, Key Ring and Clipper Magazine, relaunched today as G/O Digital. The new unit – which is adding a massive hub in a Chicago skyscraper, and is specifically kept separate from Gannettt’s media properties — is lead by longtime ShopLocal head Vikram Sharma. It also adds ecommerce vet Mark Maranacci (Edo, Google, Yahoo) as ShopLocal President, where he will lead the sales marketing team interacting with national brands and retailers.

The rebranding was announced today at ShopLocal’s 8th Annual Retail Summit in Chicago. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore, at the event, said that the effort is part of “transforming Gannett into an innovative media and marketing powerhouse,” scaling local audiences “to a national level.”

Staples SVP of U.S. Stores Alison Corchoran spoke about the value of having all the Gannett services under one roof. The company views Gannett as a major marketing partner, along with companies such as Constant Contact, Google, Groupon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Cheetah Mail and Mcgarry Bowen.

Corcoran noted that Staples now has 1,500 stores, but it isn’t about the stores so much as being a “b2b marketer” both online and in the stores. With the rise of search, Direct Mail, email marketing, social media, ecommerce and loyalty services, she noted that the goal posts have dramatically changed.

While Staples continues to focus on “easy,” “the meaning of ‘easy’ has changed. Retailers have more dots to connect. Gannett’s new focus on integrated offerings have really helped the Staples team get over the dual dilemma of being “very data driven but risk averse,” she says.

Centro’s Riegsecker on Local’s ‘Mid-Tail’ Opportunity

The Long Tail in advertising may be SMB-centric. The Short Tail may be ad agency centered media buying, which only go to the Top 100 sites on the Web. If that’s the case, the “Mid-Tail” comes from local publishers, suggests Centro Media CEO Shawn Riegsecker. But these publishers, which rely on high value journalist-based content and integrated advertising, have lately been “losing their shirts.” They can’t scale on the Web.

For Riegsecker, whose company operates an 80 newspaper affiliate reseller program, the answer lies in automation that places media across the board – a reliance on automation he’s been touting for years but that we’re increasingly hearing for local advertisers in search (The Search Agency) and display advertisers (Balihoo).

Centro has been growing quickly, and now sports a 300 person team. Half are based in Chicago and the other half are in 28 regional offices around the U.S. Lately, the company has been especially focused on rolling out a range of automation solutions for 575 mid-tier, independent agencies that represent 2,600 advertisers.

Two weeks ago, the company rolled out Centro Planner, a planning and buying module formerly known as Transis. Additional solutions will include a campaign planning operations tool and next year, a finance app that will feature invoice and billing reconciliation.

“They all link together and automate an ad agency’s entire lifestyle,” adds Riegsecker. “They support very healthy ad agencies for a very healthy ecosystem.” By reducing the emphasis on remnant/inventory that only account for 20 percent of overall agency business, Centro helps to release resources for agencies to do data analysis, hire statisticians, and move into social, native and content marketing, he says.