The local media landscape has had a few pillars for years---guides for everything from restaurants to hotels, local news, directories like the yellow pages and recommendations---and they have been slowly crumbling. As Google ramps up its local ambitions one question looms: Can any of the locals compete with Google?
Google on Monday rolled out a feature called Favorite Places where local businesses will post a unique bar code, dubbed QR code. The general idea is that you scan the location with your mobile phone and recommend the business to friends. Scan the QR code and you'll get reviews, coupons and recommend that place. Thus far Google has sent out window decals to 100,000 local businesses in the U.S., but expect that sum to grow in the future. What business wouldn't use the QR code? Google can become one helluva traffic generator for local businesses.
The combination of Google Maps, business listings and sheer scale will be formidable for any local player. In the future, Google may decide whether your local business becomes a success.
These Google thoughts bring back comments from J.P. Rangaswami, managing director of innovation and strategy at BT Design, British Telecom's IT design and delivery unit. He noted at the Supernova conference last week that BT used to have the directory of businesses, the post office, a record of changes and groupings of customers. The telephone companies missed "the importance of connecting them to scheduling," said Rangaswami. Microsoft didn't and had Outlook.
The directory companies also missed the trust factor. Telephone companies were in a position to tell people what plumbers their friends used and combine them with ratings and sharing. Add it up and you get the "trust domain" that makes local business tick, added Rangaswami. Indeed, the trust domain is everywhere in local media. Google is filling that void and may become the local business gatekeeper.