About a week ago, Idearc announced that Superpages.com had introduced more user-content features.
Previously, the primary component of user content on the site was limited to user ratings and reviews associated with business listings.
Some of the new features this recent upgrade added include allowing all users to enhance basic biz profile information, uploading pictures of organizations, wiki-like biz listing “blog” features which could allow simplistic blogging by businesses and/or could be used as a consumer comment or Q/A zone for each business since any user could submit info to them.
Of all the top online yellow pages and local search sites, I believe that Superpages may now have the distinction of having the greatest variety of Web 2.0 features. Out of Local.com, DexKnows, Yellowpages.com, YellowBook, Citysearch, and Google Maps — none of them have photos + ratings/reviews + “blogs” + user-provided profile data. Only Yahoo Local really approaches this number of user-content features, I believe. Out of all of the top IYP and local search sites, only Yahoo Local and Superpages openly invite any users to supply photos for locations — Google Maps only allows business owners and content partners to supply photos.
Now, I can see that they may still be working a few of the kinks out in these new services, and the display of this new content seems a little bit siloed or distanced from the business’s profile page, requiring a click to see it. But, I expect these are things which will evolve and expand as they get more content added in. There’s always something of a chicken-or-egg dilemma when adding new content like this to sites — stuff can look a little sad when there’s little content, but it’s hard to get content without making the features really visually apparent.
But, critique of the implementation aside, Superpages appears to be keeping a ahead of the game by striving to differentiate themselves from the competition in terms of these new user features, along with the robust data sources and diverse ad products they already had.
You may recall that Superpages recently brought their video ads out of beta release, and they also acquired Switchboard.com and announced plans to deploy local content through Microsoft Windows Live Messenger via a partnership with Multiplied Media. Just before that, Idearc acquired the LocalSearch.com domain name along with some portion of ownership of AmericanTowns.com (a company which has substantial local information sites and content).
There’s an arms race that’s been going on for quite some time in the local space wherein the yellow pages directory sites and local search engines have all been seeking to outpace each other by ramping up on product features and richness of data. With the recent flurry of multiple announcements and deployments of new functionality and distribution channels, you can see that Superpages is aggressively working to outpace the competition and make it challenging for others to match their suite of features. The programming for such stuff is relatively easy in some cases, but the logistics involved in managing quality issues can be expensive — you don’t want people adding malicious or obscene images to businesses, so it requires human auditing to keep the quality up.
I think these recent changes may begin to transform their info pages from being the traditional business profiles into something more like dynamic information clusters around businesses.
The strategy could be worth it in terms of driving user loyalty and in helping to differentiate from the competition. The interest and adoption of sites like Yelp.com have demonstrated that user communities can effectively be built around directory information sites, so user-generated content could be the next frontier for IYP, if it can be done in an affordable manner that doesn’t degrade quality.
Obviously, a prime motivating factor behind all this pumping of investment capital into Superpages.com is Idearc’s expectation that revenues on the legacy print side of the house may continue to decline. In the recent figures from Idearc’s third-quarter financials, Idearc’s stock took a heavy beating, in part because of a 3% fall in print revenue. Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente stated:
“I think the concern from investors is that you are seeing the transition of the business to electronic from print faster than expected.”
Hmmm…. it sounds a bit like my theory that Google Trends could be indicating a pretty fast slump for traditional yellow pages usage might actually have some basis. But, I digress.
Idearc’s not taking the paradigm shift laying down — the cagey adoption of Web 2.0 hallmarks on top of the solidly-performing product will help them keep ahead in the local search game.
(Disclosure: I used to work for Idearc Superpages.com and you can reasonably consider that I might still hold stock and/or options from them. Despite this, I do try to write objectively about them and the local search industry in general. Heck, I’ve even been accused recently of being biased against yellow pages for stuff I write. Even so, I just want to state for the record that this article is an opinion piece by me with no intention of influencing stock prices, and you shouldn’t be basing stock purchase decisions on me anyway. After all, I’m *still* stinging a bit from my stock losses suffered during the dot-com bust!)
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