Can Google win at Local? That is the $39 billion advertising question.
Just as Google’s AdWords fueled billions can readily drive a multi-billion dollar takeover of the online display advertising market, in other words a DoubleClick buyout, Google’s spare cash can easily subsidize free local directory assistance service, in other words GOOG 411.
Last month I asked When will Google Local reap $39 billion local ad sales opportunity?, noting that while CEO Eric Schmidt wants every penny he can get of the $800 billion global advertising pie, Google touts FREE Google Local even though the local ad sales opportunity is a $39 billion one (by 2011), according to Kelsey Group’s Global Directories Forecast 2007.
What’s the deal? I asked Eric Stein, Director of Local at Google, just that at "Drilling Down on Local" conference in Santa Clara last month.
Stein offered up the standard Google public facing rationale for why the $150 billion market cap, no visible ceiling to AdWords monetization, Wall Street darling gives away certain select services: Enhancing the user experience is job number one at Google.
Really? In Google Local squeezes Directory Assistance, Yellow Pages, Online Directories I analyze how Google wants to create its own local ecosystem by pushing industry players out to lock in its own local position.
But can it? As I oft underscore, local advertising is a high-touch, one-off game. As such, the Google hands-off, self-serve AdWords model can not match the legions of (other companies’) feet on the street which are still canvassing for local merchant ad dollars daily.
YellowBot, a new local online venture spearheaded by a Citysearch veteran, knows local ad sales is an expensive proposition and is “outsourcing” the job. The local directory meets social networking start-up play, however, believes it can nevertheless motivate local residents to help build a better Web-based local service, for the greater local good.
What is YellowBot? I spoke with Erron Silverstein, co-founder and CEO, to find out.
"A local search site for finding and reviewing the places you go to in your community. As an integral part of the site we are building ways for patrons and business owners to exchange tips and experiences," Silverstein told me.
How and Why? After all, highly touted VC backed Insider Pages didn’t build a successful business off of “user reviews.” Citysearch actually took it over in a distress asset sale: CitySearch bails out InsiderPages.
We don’t think of them as reviews, we think of them as stories. You’ve been there, you’ve had an experience, people that you know were there, or else you want them to know what they missed. We just provide the framework for you to do that. Your stories intermingle with the stories of your neighbors, your friends, and people you haven’t met yet. When there are enough stories, a picture of the place emerges.
We’ve set our sights on “solving” Local because we just don’t think anybody’s done it right yet. We’ve worked at many of the big and small dotcoms that have receded from view in the rear-view mirror of the proverbial information superhighway and finally figured it was time to stop complaining and create something useful. Or at least something that we’d like to use ourselves.
And that is what Silverstein and friends are in the process of doing. YellowBot, a newly launched self-funded beta service, is recruiting core contributors to seed the site with tags, lots of them, aimed at personalizing the base directory listings supplied by vendor Localeze.
YellowBot is not just inspired by Del.icio.us tagging, however; Web 2.0 social networking tools abound:
Flickr like photo sharing,
Citysearch style user reviews,
Facebook inspired friending...
The YellowBot tag line: Search + Friends = Your City
Monetization? Web 2.0 inspired as well. In good “lightweight” business model fashion, YellowBot wants to avoid the high infrastructure costs entailed with direct local ad sales models.
Silverstien told me a successful close of a local merchant entails, on average, a $500 investment. YellowBot will be looking to efficiently leverage its targeted audience of local aficionados via third-party contextual ad services.
Bottom local YellowBot line?
Use the site. Find your important places. Write some stories. Tag a bunch of stuff. But most importantly, invite your friends and loved ones to do the same. Populate your online neighborhood. We’re watching to see what features are important to you. And we’ll pay you back with love and kindness. And new functionality.
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