Social, Local Search: Everybody's Doing It
Now Intuit has gotten into the local search game, creating an InsiderPages/Judy's Book-like directory site. The site Zipingo has been live since August, but generally under the radar. Intuit is trying to leverage its huge QuickBooks' SME user base to help generate reviews for Zipingo.
The site says that users should: "Think of it as the yellow pages with customer ratings." (Sound familiar?)
I first learned about this site from StepUp CEO Kendall Fargo (who was originally using a QuickBooks integration to provide real-time retailer inventory information — now feeding Froogle Local), but was reminded of it today by Loren Baker at Search Engine Journal.
Getting small business users to rate other local businesses through a Quicken/QuickBooks' integration is a good idea — on paper — but may be a problem in practice.
The site is free (no advertising, at least for now), so the question has to be why? Is it a marketing vehicle for Intuit, or does Intuit conceive of it as a marketing vehicle (eventually) for some of the small businesses that use its accounting software?
It doesn't seem to be about generating community among QuickBooks users (although there is some discussion to that effect on the site).
So why is Intuit doing this? The answer probably is: "because we can." (In a certain way it makes sense for Intuit to try to do this given its massive user base.) It's also still somewhat novel to combine directory listings with user reviews. And there's still limited consumer awareness of local search sites.
But with Kudzu, Backfence, Yelp, Judy's Book, InsiderPages and mainstream Yellow Pages sites like SuperPages adding user reviews (not to mention Yahoo! and Google), the "space" is starting to get pretty crowded. And InsiderPages and Judy's Book are starting to syndicate reviews to other sites, so we've got a kind of "review ecosystem" emerging.
As I look into my crystal ball for 2006, I see some of these sites gaining more momentum but recognizing that they can't all be national players without being acquired or merging. Traditional Yellow Pages publishers or newspapers (or maybe other "traditional" media like the News Corp.'s of the world) will take a serious look at buying the sites that develop brands and enough review critical mass to have a meaningful user experience on a broad, multistate level.
If the Zipingo folks are patient and take a long-term view — and try very consciously to differentiate their product — they might have something. But right now, it's a nice-looking me-too site that doesn't have a ton to offer.
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Actually, the first Intuit software to go live with a Blue Star for rating on Zipingo was Quicken 2006. But you're correct, essentially. Intuit believes it's customers are just the type of user base that would appreciate managing their money better…before they spend it. And so, Zipingo it is!