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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Yahoo Local, Tweaked

John Battelle offers a crystal-clear overview of the evolution and potential of Yahoo Local listings.

This isn't about Y! vs G, so much as it is both continuing to take an aggressive stance to take market share from YP.

I've posted on local search many times in this space, but the key principle is worth repeating. Y! & G have captured consumers' imagination (a) through better products that make things easier to find, whether it be maps, metadata, etc.; (b) through mindshare, meaning that consumers find the local information because they're searching through the leading search brand.

So at a recent conference (from the Q&A floor, mind you), one speech from a yellow pages company rep accused everyone in the room of being "oblivious" to the market position of yellow pages companies. Later that day, another intervention from the floor accused the panel of being "sponsored by Yahoo and Google". The strange comment went on to announce the market share of yellow pages companies online (6th or 8th largest "web property" in Canada). This latter panel was called Search Ads 101, and the curriculum was designed to teach newcomers about things like bids, ads, keywords, etc. You present the material you have, that attendees have consistently asked for. To be blunt, it ain't my job to shill for any company, YPG, G, Y, or anyone -- and the only companies who ever stand up and literally ask a meta-question challenging the design of a panel are those who feel threatened.

Dudes, we're not oblivious. Au contraire, everyone alive (at least those of us over the age of 20) is well aware of the offline local directory phenomenon (it's that big, heavy book), and sometimes we use their online versions. As industry people, we're also aware that the old directory companies are trying to work on their online directories, and we're aware that they currently get a fair amount of traffic, and we're aware of a few partnerships that place those listings online. But as the Google brainiacs and Web 2.0 conference conveners might say, this just isn't all that "interesting." And at the end of the day, we're free agents in this extended social networking space of the blogosphere + conferences + our day jobs. We got into this stuff, perhaps, because we're entrepreneurial, edgy, etc. If there was a web 1.0, we got into it then because traditional business models were being challenged, and marketplace friction being reduced, through the application of better digital technologies.

For those new to the Canadian directory space (if it's a space at all, since to me it looks like "space" is shifting) for which this debate took place, you may learn a lot by scrutinizing the "income trust" financial structure of the Yellow Pages Group. Notice anything? OK, OK, I'll spell it out. As compared with Silicon Valley companies, an income trust that invests directly in distributions to its shareholders, and in traditional television and billboard "awareness" campaigns, is not investing in its products. There is no Free Prize Inside. Do not pass Go.

Narcissism + worse products + not liking it when people talk about what's interesting to them = major threat to established player, largely self-inflicted.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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