Tag Archives: Yellow Pages

Local.com Marks 10th Year; SuperPages Deal Expanded

Local.com, the public company that started life as Interchange Corp., observed its 10th anniversary last week, complete with a red balloon-festooned party at its headquarters in Irvine, CA, and an upgrade of its three-year-old, local ad distribution agreement with Idearc’s Superpages.com.

There are, of course, a lot of pieces to Local.com, which has evolved right along with the local ecosystem. It includes the local directory/city guide sites, the outside sales force selling “Local Promote,” the networks, a mobile site, an SMS site, a UK site, and its growing “Local Connect” private label directory service (formerly PremierGuide).

The expanded agreement with SuperPages illustrates how some of the pieces can be leveraged. Under the deal, Superpages.com’s performance-based and subscription advertisers now receives preferred placement on Local.com’s 700+ regional sites. The expanded agreement also includes distribution of enhanced content from Superpages.com advertisers including ratings and reviews and links to enhanced local business profile pages and videos.

I’ve often pondered CEO Heath Clarke’s vision. It goes like this: “Local is really big. If you scale it right, you don’t need to be number one or two to make a go of it – you just need to get a few percentage points, and then leverage it.”

‘Dividing 11 Points, What is Your Preference for Print vs. IYP?’

Simmons Market Research Bureau called me at home on Saturday morning as part of a broad canvassing of Yellow Pages consumers in San Diego County.

After some preliminary qs, the surveyor asked me to walk over to where I keep my Yellow Pages (downstairs, in an old gun closet). I lugged six Yellow Pages out of the closet, put on my glasses, and read the tiny numbers off the spine to surveyor, who confessed that 20 percent of people hung up at that point. Not very many.

Next, I was asked the last time I used each directory, and for what reason (in my case, restaurant coupons a few weeks ago). Then I was asked about my usage of some Internet directories, some of which are mainstream, including all the online versions of the big YPs, Google and Yahoo. Some, however, were just barely alive or inactive in my area, leaving me to scratch my head why they were included.

Interestingly, the survey didn’t ask me about sites where I actually get listings from: Yelp, Angie’s List, Mojopages, InsiderPages, CitySearch, Servicemagic –the kinds of places where someone like me sometimes finds listings. It also didn’t include local independent directories for my area that I enjoy using.

The best question: “Dividing 11 points between Internet Yellow Pages and Print Yellow Pages, what is your preference?”

How would YOU answer that? 5-6? 6-5? 7-4? 8-3? 9-2? 10-1? 11-0? Let us know!

2008: The Year That Was

We’re out with our predictions for 2009. But what’s the final word for 2008? Truly, it was a very stimulating and thoughtful year for our local media and commerce industry. But speaking for myself, it’s hard to say whether it was a good year, especially with fresh layoffs that we are hearing about every day. In fact, the year was kind of Dickensian (“best of times, worst of times”).

On one hand, there has been an explosion in local content with YouTube, Twitter and Stumble Upon; and omnipresent local reviews with services such as Yelp and Angie’s List. Online video has become a real media, aided by $100 video cameras and the emergence of HD standards; and mobile has started to become a real channel, aided by GPS and iPhones.

On the small business front, search has become more widely accepted in key local segments, and has become mainstreamed in many ways, adding a useful channel to the ad mix. And the percentage of SMBs with websites or personal profile pages has crept up to 61 percent.

But what about the business? For traditional media, it was especially bad. In 2008, we had a perfect storm. Massive debt and declining circulation hit the newspapers hard – and the Yellow Pages in the same way. Sharp hits to retail, auto and real estate advertising sealed the deal. The decline in auto has not only hit traditional media. Online ad networks that aggregate local media, such as Centro, relied on auto for 30 percent of its revenue.

The result: Tribune stands bankrupt, McClatchy and Lee and others are near bankruptcy. It even appears possible that Idearc and RHD — the two public YP companies in the U.S. — could file for bankruptcy (although we are not betting on that).

At the same time, old line products such as ValPak coupons have been put up for sale, and we don’t see clear replacements for them yet. Vertical products remain compelling, but with the economic slump, haven’t proved to be the hedge that traditional media had hoped (at this point).

Moreover, third party auto sites such as AutoByTel have been put on the sales block. And vertical stars such as Zillow have begun to layoff workers, even as they form broad sales arrangements.

Local-oriented startups also got hit. Credit has tightened up. The only companies that are likely to get funding are those that can get to cash flow positive with as little money as possible. Social-oriented services seem especially poised to get hurt.

So – we have to change the conventional wisdom. The old CW: “if we just tweak things, and gradually switch advertisers over, everything should work itself out.” In fact, with the emergence of new, highly targeted ad products, we could see advertisers spending much more on marketing than in the past.

The new CW? It isn’t so simple.

We’ve learned that hyperlocal doesn’t live in a vacuum, and that there isn’t ready demand for block-by block coverage. But it is a useful add-on. Content platforms have become a commodity, but can be improved with navigation, tagging and geo-targeting.

We’ve also learned that mapping is a feature that can be greatly enhanced with personalization and advertising, and could be the basis for a new portal (but there are lots of new fronts for portals). And that mobile content shows real promise, but is still kept “closed” by the carriers, who manage 90 percent of it behind their firewalls (Although Google’s Android might begin to open things up).

Classifieds have taken a huge hit by free providers such as Craigslist, which continues to gather steam. But it is encouraging to see classifieds get extended by aggregators such as GoogleBase, Vast and Oodle, which actually started working with MySpace, Facebook and WalMart (a new local player?) – a truly interesting development.

On the “national-local” front, geo targeting has become so widespread that it actually has put a crimp into CPM rates for local publishers, which have come down from $10 to $6-7 in many cases. But we’re seeing organic adoption by regional advertisers such as supermarkets, banks, furniture store chains and lotteries. As Centro CEO Shawn Riegsecker has noted: “they’ve been spending 1 percent to 10 percent of their revenue on the Web, with no strategy.” In 2009, they’ll get one.

For “local-local,” the bottom line remains the engagement of the small business. It is greatly encouraging to see the wide adoption of free online tools by real estate agents, for instance, and ad building templates and planning by companies like AdReady, which has deals with companies such as The New York Times.

It is also encouraging to see the evolution of leads-based services, where ServiceMagic, for instance, has moved the continuum from simply providing leads to delivering jobs (i.e. installation of flat screen TVs bought at Target). Angie’s List’s “two-sided cash register” from premium subscriptions and advertising also represents a new model.

In the end, we are in an environment where we are absolutely climbing over bodies to get ahead. But the opportunities seem stronger than ever, as is the relevancy of the products to consumers. It is an important and meaningful thing for all of us to work on, isn’t it? Happy new year to all of our friends, and thanks for your support. We’ll see you in 2009.

Deutsche Bank Discontinues Local Media Coverage

In disappointing-but-not-unexpected news, Deutsche Bank has discontinued its coverage of local media (i.e. newspapers and television stations). Most of the companies in the space have lost 70-90 percent of their equity value over the past three months. Concurrent with the news was the layoff of a wave of analysts.

The first-rate reports from DB analysts like Paul Ginocchio, David Clark and Matt Chesler (the latter still working on Yellow Pages), have been an important part of the industry knowledge base for several years.

Basically, being a financial analyst means looking for growth opportunities (or bargain basement value). As Lauren Rich Fine demonstrated when she quit Merrill Lynch last year, if you don’t believe in a segment’s growth, you can’t really be working with a bank in assessing the segment, or the companies in it.

Latest News on ILM:08, Santa Clara (Nov.19-21)

We’re just about ready to go with Interactive Local Media: 08, which is Nov.19-21 in Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It should be a very important, game-defining event – and the first one for The Kelsey Group in the new BIA Advisory Services era (they acquired Kelsey last week, adding resources and smarts to the team).

Previously, we announced a lot of the lineup, with hand-picked execs from Google, Yahoo, Angie’s List, ServiceMagic, Comcast, NBC, TurnHere, Adify, Centro, PointRoll, IAC, Citysearch, Outside.in, Sensis, Topix, Praized, PegasusNews, Voodoovox, ComScore, Yodle, DoneRight, Metrix4Media, LiveDeal, Merchant Circle, CityVoter and Institute for the Future.

Here are some new highlights. Our opening keynoter is local search innovator Mark Canon, the ex Switchboard/AOL Search/Autobytel exec who now runs Yell.com. Mark will share his authoritative insights on local, vertical and directory/search, and the differences between the U.S. and international markets.

We have also developed a great “pre-conference” session with Andrew Shotland, the former NBC and InsiderPages exec who has become “Mr. Local SEO Guide.” Andrew is providing his insider tips on Search Engine Marketing.

From Yahoo’s newspaper consortium, we’re adding former Tribune Interactive exec Mike Silver, who represents the newspapers in all this. He joins Yahoo’s Lem Lloyd on the podium to talk about what we’ve learned so far.

On the SMB SuperForum, we’ve added Jeff Stibel from Web.com, who will be keynoting the mega-session. We’ve also added John Keister from Marchex; Travis Fore from Network Solutions Inc; and Matt Howard from SMBLive (an especially interesting broadband service).

On the Video Superforum, we’ve landed Brian McCarthy from Citysearch, Peter Bowen from SeeSaw Networks, Glenn Pingul from Mixpo, Diaz Nesamoney from Jivox and Steve Espinosa from eLocal Listing. We’re also adding an out of home twist –out of home is a huge growth area in local advertising – via John McMenamin of Ripple TV.

We’re also pleased to have lured Pieter Grasdijk from The Netherlands to talk about ilocal; and Josh Herman from Acxiom’s Info Base to talk about local audience segmentation.

Wrapping things up with “all thoughts local” are three of our smartest friends: Ethan Stock from Zvents, Jennifer Dulski from Center’d and Craig Hagopian from V-Enable.

Throughout the whole thing, we’re running state-of-the-art, and really fun iPhone and video demos, and even running some contests, with the audience voting via laser pen (yours to keep). See you in Santa Clara? Here’s the link to register.

Zillow Adds a Home Services Directory

With the real estate market in an indefinite doldrums, Zillow is transforming itself from an information provider about home sales to a full service provider of information for home owners. The ad-supported service announced today that it is launching a Professional Services Directory that is probably going to encroach on similar territory mined by services such as Angie’s List or ServiceMagic.

The Directory uses Zillow’s 150,000 registered real estate salespeople as a base, but expects to be adding adjacent categories, including stagers, lenders, contractors, landscapers and architects. Consumers can then search for professionals by specialty, business name, city, ZIP code or neighborhood. While it would seem logical that Zillow would invite ratings and reviews, they aren’t included in the initial rollout.

To us, the whole concept isn’t such a stretch (although it isn’t a sure thing that Zillow’s users will march from Z-estimates to mortgages to this). Zillow has been selling ads to this community from the get-go, first via EZ Ads, and now with the updated version, called “Showcase Ads.” Combined, the two channels have now sold 30,000 ads.

Will the new Directory launch as a state-of-the-art IYP, with integrated mapping, etc.? It will not. But it is likely to act as an additional ad channel, and also might support Zillow’s broader, mutual efforts with The Newspaper Consortium. Newspapers have been looking for a way to get into home services – rumors are that some of them had been looking at Angie’s List before its recent round put it out of reach.

Just Announced: Big Time Lineup for ILM 08, Silicon Valley

OK, we’ve got the format(s) and “best and brightest” speaker roster set for Interactive Local Media: Extending Local Channels, which is Nov. 19-21 in Santa Clara, next to San Jose.

At the top of the list is Angie Hicks, “the Angie” from Angie’s List, and Rodney Rice from ServiceMagic. They’ll tell it all during one-on-one interviews.

More excitement is to be found on a Financial panel with Kara Nortman from IAC; and the “Transition to the Internet” sessions with Kevin Cuddihy from Comcast; Larry Olevitch from NBC Local; Lem Lloyd from The Yahoo! Newspaper Consortium; and Meredith Papp from Google’s Traditional Media team.

For some people, Interactive Local Media is all about the ad nets. If that’s the case, we have three of the leaders in the vertical and local space: Russ Fradin from Cox’s Adify; Shawn Riegsecker from Centro; and Jason Tafler from Gannett’s PointRoll.

And we’ll have plenty of “Community” with Mark Josephson from Outside.in; Mike Orren from Pegasus News; Dave Galvan from Topix; and Seb Provencher from Praized.com. We’ve also zeroed in on New Business Directories in the U.S. and abroad with Chris Smith from Sensis; and Eric Peacock from CitySearch/InsiderPages; and Pieter Grasdijk from Holland’s iLocal. Watch for some additions there, to be announced shortly.

We also are looking forward to new directions in mobile with Greg Wester from VoodooVox (Greg, of course, one the smartest analysts to come out of The Yankee Group). We’ll have a lot of other local mobile-related things at the show, including leading edge local iPhone and Google Android demos.

We’re especially proud to land Mike Liebhold from The Institute For the Future to give us a sense of how mobile, GPS and Mapping technologies impact the future of local media, community and society. Mike is a longtime tech industry leader and visionary (at Apple, among other places). All this will be rounded out with some great Comscore data on multi-platform local usage from Brian Jurutka, a great presenter and analyst.

What is really going to make this conference stand out, however, are the multi-paneled “Superforums” on SMB Marketing and Video, hopefully complete with audience “voting” via laser pen (if we can figure out the logistics with 600+ attendees). The SMB SuperForum is now largely in place with Web.com’s Jeff Stibel doing a mini keynote, with strong support from Paul Ryan from DoneRight; Josh Walker from CityVoter; Court Cunningham from Yodle; Todd Crandall from Metrix4Media; Darren Waddell from MerchantCircle; and Mike Englehart, the new CEO from LiveDeal.

On the Video SuperForum side, we’re kicking things off with a mini-keynote from Brad Inman, the CEO of TurnHere (and founder of HomeGain and InmanNews), great demos, and many top speakers to be announced on that shortly. Here’s the Kelsey Group URL for where to sign up. (But don’t delay. Prices go up shortly).