Natural Search Blog

Decider Enters Local Search

Decider logoHumorous faux-newspaper, The Onion, has launched a new local directory site called Decider in beta. While The Onion is famous for its satirical “news” articles, Decider is a decidedly serious guide intended to complement their other offerings like serious classifieds and the A.V. Club (The Onion’s arts and entertainment site).

Decider brings local business listings for bars, restaurants, music venues, events, and reviews. It appears to be targeted to the college-to-early-thirties demographic, and sports advertisements on the pages.

When I heard about Decider, I immediately though, “oh, yet another business directory site among the many others,” — a thought apparently shared to some degree by Andrew Shotland.

Yet, I don’t think local search has hit a point of “critical mass” like the largest point of expansion just before an industry’s bubble is about to burst. While I do believe that there is likely to be some collapsing of the businesses at the top of the local directory food chain like major yellow pages, the cheapness of launching local businesses at the bottom of the equation virtually guarantees that there will continue to be many more contenders continuing to enter with their own takes on the local search experience. The barriers to entry for launching a local directory are quite low, and various related local info APIs cause the barrier to reduce even more.

Greg Sterling points out that The Onion’s intro into local directory space isn’t all that surprising, since they are a type of newspaper — though, newspapers have also been struggling to get up to competitive speed in the internet age.

Oh, and I should also take a moment to point out that Decider has been fairly savvy in trying to construct a site that is very search-engine friendly. Their developers have obviously worked to incorporate SEO elements into the construction. Page titles are pretty well-formed, along with Meta tags and H1s. Page URLs are very spider-friendly and include keywords.

They even get a special place in my heart for incorporating hCard microformatting elements, although I’m not convinced that their microformat code is valid — the hCard stuff isn’t recognized by my Operator toolbar in FireFox, so I think they may’ve set the hCard up in an invalid manner, perhaps.

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3 comments for Decider Enters Local Search »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2


    If anything these kinds of entrants should be causing local search incumbents (including start-ups that are on their way to becoming incumbents) to freak out a bit. When strong domains like The Onion start slapping up a local database and use their SEO know how combined with the brand loyalty they already have, pure plays are going to start to get pushed way down the page.

    If I were some of these guys I might be thinking about how I could partner with some stronger domains to guard against this.

    Comment by Andrew Shotland — 8/28/2008 @ 1:26 pm

  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    Andrew, you’re entirely right. New local directory startups like this are a threat to the businesses which are dependent on their local directory sites.

    The constant fragmenting makes it harder and harder for local directories and yellow pages to compete and build a sustainable audience.

    Yet, this has been happening to some degree since the earlier days of the internet. I can paraphrase-quote some of the founders of who said something like, “…we didn’t expect there would be as much competition as there has been…” (that was said about 8 years ago).

    It’s much cheaper to slap a web interface on a database and launch a new directory site than it is to print up and distribute yellow pages books, for instance. The barrier to entry has been very low, comparatively, since the beginning.

    So, to some degree, this competitive threat has been BAU for a long while. At the same time, it continues to be a threat and is a significant concern for the major players.

    I’d say the main concern is with new players which introduce disruptively-advantageous innovations on the scene. Who would have supposed that Yelp might gain so much share in some markets, so quickly, for instance?

    Comment by Chris Silver Smith — 8/28/2008 @ 1:37 pm

  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    I guess as long as the big guys have all of this unspent budget they may not care too much as they will just end up buying traffic from any new player that gains traction. The challenge will come when the new player figures out how to sell to the regional/local advertisers and starts chipping away at that unspent budget.

    Comment by Andrew Shotland — 8/29/2008 @ 10:52 am

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