Judy’s Book: Self-Serve Doesn’t Work, Other Lessons

Judy’s Book co-founder Andy Sack posts very candidly about the difficulties of launching a review/IYP site. Sack, who also founded Abuzz, one of the original review sites, and worked on Firefly, knows something about this subject by now.

Founded in 2004 at around the same time as Insider’s Pages, which just changed CEOs, Judy’s Book claims one million unique visitors; a national footprint; and content distribution deals with Google, Yahoo, Local.com, Yellowpages.com and InfoSpace.

Issue # 1 for Judy’s Book is achieving critical mass, market-by-market. “Momentum in any one location doesn’t transfer to others – you have to fight the same fight over and over,” writes Sack.

Getting repeat visits is tough, too. “Converting visits into signups, signups into repeat visits, & then into active use requires lots of money or passion or (best case) both at once.”

Despite the hype surrounding local online commerce’s arrival, Sack believes it remains very, very difficult to reach decision-makers at potential advertisers — and to get them to write a check (something that my clients usually refuse to believe). “Self service for this market won’t work — I think you need feet on the street to address this market,” he concludes. Another factor is the difficulty of good SEO, which is critical since 30 percent of Judy’s traffic is coming from Google. Google holds all the cards and they “keep changing the rules,” he says.

On the plus side, Sack says in a follow-up post that the user community has proved to be really responsive. “Consumers will do a *LOT* of work to get a deal (esp. something free).” He also notes that “people love to ask & answer questions on topics they care about.” (Thanks a lot to Niki Scevak’s Bronte Media for pointing to Andy’s Blog).