Tag Archives: IAC

Chris Terrill Discusses ServiceMagic’s Rebranding to ‘Home Advisor’

A few years ago, it became apparent that IAC’s ServiceMagic had stalled. While the 1,200 person company has continued to show growth, and had expanded to several international markets, it was clearly vulnerable to new challengers, ranging from Angie’s List and Yelp to new companies, such as Repair.com and RedBeacon (now owned by Home Depot.)

Part of the problem may have been that its assortment of services didn’t reflect how people look for service information. Part of it may have been that after 12 years, it was a tired brand to those in the industry, and unknown to those outside of it.

Now the company has pushed the reset button under the leadership of Chris Terrill, who’d served executive stints at Nutrisystem, Blockbuster and Match.com. Terrill’s been on board for 18 months now, and has extensively studied what he has determined is a “half billion dollar plus opportunity.”

“It’s about more than improvements and home projects,” says Terrill. “It’s all things in the service space.” Looking at the competition, Terrill sees a lot of potential to carve out a unique role for Home Advisor. “There is no go-to, ‘Trip Advisor’-like brand in the homes space,” he notes.

Rebranding is key to much of the company’s next steps. Home Advisor, the name of Microsoft’s real estate portal, was purchased from Microsoft for “less than six figures,” says Terrill. “It was the deal of the century.” The new name does a lot more for the company than the limited idea of “service” and the generic “magic,” he notes. Terrill adds that a major branding campaign, including TV, kicks off in January.

“We didn’t want to stop at the name change,” Terrill emphasizes. “We have completely changed the user experience.” New elements include a project cost guide, which users can use to project the actual cost for projects right down to local zip codes. Another new feature is Home911, which is an emergency service app. There is also content for home remodeling. Users can research it to “get beyond aspirational,” says Terrill.

What isn’t changing very much is the business model, although Terrill says it continues to evolve. There are basically two options. Consumers will still receive several qualified paid leads when they are looking for work. Different pricing is in effect for the standard lead or leads from Home911. What won’t change is that consumers will receive services for free. The company’s surveys showed that 90 percent of consumers would never pay for service information.

CityGrid’s InsiderPages Refocuses on Health as a Vertical

Ratings and review sites for things like dining, nail salons and events (i.e. Yelp) are inevitably going to battle it out with Google. CityGrid Media’s Insider Pages wants to go in a different direction.

Since last year, the site has steered most of its energies into building up a health specialty, with deep ratings and reviews and other aggregated information. Along the way, it has learned that the value of health-related advertising (i.e. pharmaceuticals) grows astronomically as it gets more specialized and targeted. Now, the San Francisco-based site is prepared to launch up to 30 unique URLs for specialized health communities, starting in a few months.

GM Eric Peacock said it looked like a fairly dim future for review sites like his in 2009, as Google “got more and more aggressive in the local space.” Traffic was flat that year. But “we’ve been clawing back a generation of new content, more reviews” from InsiderPages, Citysearch and other sources; and a new focus on health and medical in general, he says. The emphasis on health is something that is also being pursued by Angie’s List, Avvo, and others.

Early last year, InsiderPages launched Doctor Finder as a partnership with HealthGrades.com, which provides detailed provider information. The result has been a growth in page views from 14 million last January to 18 million page views in December.

“We’ve scratched an itch with local search around health,” says Peacock. “It is information that is hard to find and not always available.” With virtually no marketing, Doctor Finder has especially engaged people, he says.

Instead of going to Google and leaving with a single phone number, Doctor Finder users study profiles and other information for anywhere from five to 10 doctors, averaging 12 pages per visit. “The potential is to get very, very targeted,” says Peacock. Top categories include pediatricians, OB/GYN, Family practice and dentists. Meanwhile, top specialty searches include allergists and cardiologists.

For InsiderPages, the next step is to “take this and go more vertical” by zeroing in on specific medical conditions and diseases. Members of these communities will all go through the classic stages of grief, shock and acceptance. But at the same time, they won’t just be getting a doctor; they’ll be assembling a whole team of providers to help them recover and cope. Eight-five percent of the information types will work with multiple diseases, says Peacock.

IAC’s ‘Citysearch LLC’ now ‘CityGrid Media’

IAC’s Citysearch will keep its www.citysearch.com website and brand, and IAC’s local units will still be managed by the Citysearch team, but the local organization has been renamed “CityGrid Media.” IAC’s local units include Citysearch, the CityGrid ad network, InsiderPages, UrbanSpoon and the company’s investments in MerchantCircle and Orange Soda.

The name change reflects the company’s switch in focus from its individual websites to an online media company; as well as the company’s core focus on building CityGrid, a network for selling local advertisers around Citysearch content. In May, more than 50 percent of the company’s revenue was coming from the network, which has basically been in development for three years, says CEO Jay Herratti.

CityGrid has deals in place with companies representing 700,000 local advertisers, including top IYPs such as YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com and Dex. It also reaches 140M + unique users across more than 150 web and mobile partners including Bing.com, MapQuest and AOL. Herratti says the network is “very near” to announcing some major new partnerships. It has been a challenge getting some of the companies to think about integration with CityGrid because they are so focused on growth, but “win win” deals are being made.

More broadly, Herratti notes that the company sees new opportunities that are very different than what Citysearch was looking at when it was founded in 1995. “We are building something of real scale; something that will be really meaningful to our company for the next 15 years,” he says.

Herratti notes that the various sites in the unit are at different stages of development. Urbanspoon, for instance, is a “living heart” as it builds its restaurant services. InsiderPages has done very well positioning for moms and a more mature audience. Citysearch itself may not be a newcomer “but it is very resilient, and relevant, with 20-25 million unique visitors a month.”

There is “new stuff” coming up as well, developed by former IAC exec Kara Nortman, who recently became the unit’s head of publishing. “There is lots of money behind it,” says Herratti. “We never thought we’d just be one, two, three websites,” he says. “We are moving as fast as we can.”

InsiderPages Launches Doctor Finder


If you do a search on a doctor, you may come up with five or six spammy, ad-supported links. But now InsiderPages, a property of IAC’s Citysearch, has launched DoctorFinder, a new service that hopes to simplify the complex task of finding good medical recommendations. Revenue-wise, the service is hoping to get the high CPMs associated with medical search, which can be in “double digits” for general practitioners and as high as $80 to $100 for specialists such as Chiropractors.

The new focus on medical follows similar efforts by Angie’s List, which launched medical provider ratings last year for its paid members.

General Manager Eric Peacock tells us that most review sites have focused on restaurant reviews and beauty salons “but it is hard to pick a doctor. We’ve been coming up short.” He says that the joke at his company is that “most people spend more time picking out a flatscreen TV than picking a doctor.”

Medical information is especially well suited for InsiderPages user demographics, which lean towards “middle aged mothers who may be looking for a pediatrician that takes Blue Cross and is located two miles from their house,” says Peacock.

Insider’s efforts will collect three pieces of information: types of insurance accepted, practitioner credentials, and patient reviews. The reviews are based on a 10 question survey that asks key questions such as “does the doctor spend appropriate time with you? Does he listen to your questions?”

Peacock notes that Angie’s List also has a survey, but it is “really, really long,” he says. Angie’s List also is more of a metropolitan area provider, while InsiderPages is more urban, he adds.

The Insider surveys are being conducted in partnership with HealthGrades, which already has a 1.2 million review database, and information on 800,000 U.S. doctors. Peacock notes that HealthGrades is not directly competitive with InsiderPages because its primary business is providing data to hospitals and other medical businesses.

Competitive is information provided by the key insurance companies may prove to be more competitive. Anthem, for instance, partners with Zagat for its online review database. Blue Cross, Aetna, Kaiser and Cygna also have major online efforts.

ServiceMagic Sees 21% Growth in Providers


IAC’s ServiceMagic reported today that it saw a 51 percent boost in 4Q revenue, growing from $25.3 million in 2008 to $38.2 million in 2009. The boost was accompanied by a 21 percent growth in the number of home and trade providers that pay for its leads; and a 46 percent gain in service requests. The addition of revenues from two new units –ServiceMagic International and Market Hardware, a search and website provider for verticals –also increased the pot.

Profits, however, were low at $1.2 million. They were held down by increased marketing efforts, including an expanded sales force and a major advertising campaign. Losses caused by the rapid expansion of the company’s international unit also held profits down.

ServiceMagic CEO Craig Smith is keynoting at Marketplaces 2010 March 22-24 in San Diego.

Tree.com Focuses on Brand Synergies


Tree.com, the IAC spinoff built on the backs of LendingTree.com and RealEstate.com, has reapplied itself as a marketplace that emphasizes community, even though its principal business will continue to be built around transactions.

Speaking at TargusInfo’s recent Online Lead Quality Summit in Las Vegas, Senior VP and GM Greg Hanson said the company is “taking a multichannel marketing approach that will provide synergies between all the brands.

“There is a lot of engagement before conversion,” said Hanson. “We get people very early in the financial planning cycle. That’s why Tree.com is focusing on letting users browse products across the verticals, and engaging users via Q&A.”

Hanson added that topics with “high conversation levels surface dynamically.” Users can also engage in such activities as viewing reports and account balances, monitoring spending statistics, getting advice, and tracking their goals.

For all of this, RealEstate.com is Tree.com’s obvious prototype. Hanson noted that it has been designed to be “content heavy,” with local community information, popular blogs, articles and resources, home value search, and listings search.

This post is excerpted from a report written for The Kelsey Group’s Marketplaces program.

Diller: Vertical Search Represents Key Opportunity


A year since IAC’s spinoff of several businesses, IAC Chairman Barry Diller, during a 2Q earnings call, saw some bright spots, including ServiceMagic, which saw a five percent jump in service requests. Diller also expressed optimism that the company had strong opportunities in several key areas, especially vertical search, and extensive downloads of its iPhone apps, which add up to 5.5 million (although these were mostly from its UrbanSpoon acquisition).

All this despite a sour business climate that has eaten into Citysearch’s display ad revenue,and turned IAC’s “emerging” business unit into a “retreating” business unit (to steal a line from Niki Scevak).

Diller noted that Ask.com is going to unveil coupons and deals sometime next month. While there were no suggestions that Ask can directly take on Google and Yahoo/Microsoft in the search leadership, Diller said “we’ll continue to roll out areas that we think we can offer consumers a much richer search experience than our competitors. We’ll continue to evolve and grow …and compete against Google in different areas, vertical areas.”

IAC’s rich content provides a much better experience, argued Diller. For instance, it over-indexes for questions and incorporates extensive user generated content.