Tag Archives: Jay Herratti

CityGrid Media Announces Jason Finger as New CEO

IAC announced today that SeamlessWeb founder Jason Finger will take over as CEO of its CityGrid Media unit April 12. CItyGrid Media includes the CityGrid ad network and Citysearch, Urbanspoon, Insider Pages and BuzzLabs.

Finger was a founder of SeamlessWeb in 1999. The company grew to 21 U.S. cities plus London during his tenure. SeamlessWeb, now known as Seamless, was acquired by food services giant Aramark in 2006, with Finger leading the business while serving on Aramark’s executive leadership council.

He’s served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Bessemer Venture Partners since 2010, focusing on SaaS, local businesses and e-commerce. Seamless currently competes for food delivery and restaurant online services with GrubHub and others.

CityGrid Media’s longtime CEO Jay Herratti told us he will be helping during the transition. During his eight year tenure at the company, he proved to be a pivotal figure in the evolution of interactive local media. In addition to acquiring UrbanSpoon, which should leverage Finger’s experience at Seamless, Herratti dealt head-on with the issue of building enough local user volume to attract merchants – a serious issue in the fragmented local world.

Next week, at ILM East in Boston, Herratti will provide insights into the evolution of local during his tenure at CityGrid. “Wrapping up my time at CityGrid Media with a BIA/Kelsey keynote seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on the future of local,” he told us.

“During my session, I will share my thoughts on where local is heading,” added Herratti. “There is so much activity in our space right now, the next year should be just as interesting as the last.”

CityGrid Media Will Provide Free Rep Management Profiles; Acquires BuzzLabs

CityGrid Media will soon provide its advertisers with free reputation management reports as the result of its acquisition today of BuzzLabs, a six person Seattle-based rep management firm it had previously made a small, strategic investment in. The amount of the acquisition was not disclosed.

BuzzLabs, a 16 month old company that we first covered in February, has been charging $15 a month for the self-serve, PDF reports. The reports grade all mentions from blogs, review sites, Twitter and FourSquare Tips on a sentiment scale of one to five stars, and charts the aggregated sentiment analysis on a month-by-month basis.

In addition to the self-serve reports, BuzzLabs had been providing more customized reporting to large customers, such as restaurant chains. It is unclear whether it will continue supporting that business.

CityGrid Media CEO Jay Herratti says that the company appealed to CityGrid because it proved to be “very good at crawling both the mobile and social Web, aggregating information, and appending it to the right business. It shows how (the business) looks online.”

Herratti concedes there hasn’t vocal demand for such information from customers – despite the initial excitement about reputation management 16 months ago or so — but he thinks it will prove to be very desirable and help CityGrid be seen as a one stop shop. “Publishers can show this to their advertiser to prove results,” he says.

BuzzLabs, which is headed by Philip Lee, who had previously been with Microsoft Advertising, will keep its Seattle headquarters. Herratti says the company will likely add staff, and will also be integrated into CityGrid’s technology team. He anticipates it will take three-to-six months for CityGrid to fully integrate the company. Urban Spoon, another CityGrid property, is also based in Seattle.

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.”

Citysearch’s Herratti: Focus on the Distributed Model

Citysearch rolled out its CityGrid publisher network this week. The network moves Citysearch away from an exclusive focus on its individual sites (“Citysearch.com,” “Insiderpages.com,” “UrbanSpoon”). Instead, it works on a distributed basis with partners (i.e. “SuperPages”) to marry local content and advertising.

“My vision is (that it will become) the leading content and ad network for local,” says Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti. It is no longer just about Citysearch.com as a destination site. “This is Citysearch,” he adds. “It isn’t distributed in one place. It is part of many places, all around the Web.”

The result also provides an alternative to Google. “We look at what Google is doing with local as a major competitive threat,” says Herratti. “It controls access to the Internet.

“Last year, we were building and rebuilding,” Herratti notes. “This year, we are very, very focused on execution.” Still, the current product is relatively primitive and will be rapidly evolving. “Right now, we are talking about version 1.0,” he says. “Twelve months from now, there will be new geotargeting solutions; new ways of creating content. We’re taking all of these pieces and putting them together. The next thing is to optimize, and optimize.”

Analysis of CityGrid’s impact by my colleague Matt Booth can be found on the BIA Kelsey blog.

Citysearch’s Compelling Revamp

Citysearch has just completed a full revamp of its product and strategy that it hopes will position it in the long-term battle for local. Elements of the revamp include a more intuitive interface, an embrace of social media, a major focus on video, some new twists in mobile, and the development of a full-fledged local ad and content network that offers an alternative to Google’s dominant position.

The IAC company’s current ambitions are to be “more local, more social and slicker,” says President Jay Herratti. “We are defensible with our breadth and depth of content. But we can’t grow unless we grow search at the local level.” All the efforts in online and mobile are geared around achieving such growth.

Open APIs are especially emphasized as a key way to open the service to anybody who wants to tap into CitySearch’s deep editorial content , reviews and small business information. Sites like Urban Spoon aren’t pure competitors, says Herratti. “We always try to power them. If their success is great, we’ll make money from that.”

A related piece of the puzzle is the launch of Open IDs, as well as dedicated MySpace and Facebook Connect apps. The Facebook Connect app, in particular, will enable users to develop a friends circle, based on their Facebook profile information. “It gives them a portable identity,” says Herratti. The problem with user generated content is that people intend to publish their reviews, but in the end, eight of ten reviews don’t get up there,” he says. The open IDs replace earlier efforts to register users, which typically resulted in 95 percent drop off of users.

As for the new interface, Citysearch has focused on highlighting its breadth of content and converting shoppers into buyers. In this regard, the new version’s biggest innovation is a compelling breakdown of small business information into “owner” comments, “editorial” comments and “user” comments.

The latter, which has been enhanced by the addition of InsiderPages in 2007, will begin featuring selected reviews to get away from the information overload of 200-300 reviews that are common in certain categories. While some sites suffer from review ghost towns, in Citysearch’s case, there has often been too much of a good thing, especially for restaurants and bars.

The breakdown of editorial comments should also help with search. Google already drives 50 percent all the site’s usage. Citysearch’s extensive network accounts for roughly 25 percent, and its URLs account for the remaining 25 percent.

The site is also moving away from measuring distances from businesses in the maddening “point radius” configuration, which tells users they are “x” miles away from a business (but doesn’t really know where the user actually is). The new system uses Vermont-based Maponics to break neighborhoods into polygonal neighborhoods. The new focus on neighborhood information should also drive additional “longtail” searches that could drive more advertising revenue.