Blogger David Galbraith is being credited as the first to discover that Google is beginning to offer blue "Adballoons" on maps, which for now appears limited to hotels in New York City. One of Galbraith's basic conclusions is that this application will help tip print Yellow Pages over the edge into oblivion (my words, you can read his).
I think it is fair to say that map-based advertising is potentially a pretty big deal and a direct threat to Yellow Pages publishers. The list of threats is getting pretty long at this point, and yet the industry is still standing, wounded but not yet destroyed.
While map-based advertising is a higher-level threat, I stop short of buying the argument that this will be the bullet that finally fells the beast. If I can switch metaphors, perhaps this is cut No. 216 of the 1,000 required to cause death. I doubt whether the 1,000th cut will ever be administered, at least within the time frame many appear to be suggesting.
One fact worth noting is that, so far, the only participants in the adballoons product are national hotel chains. When it comes time to include local businesses (think restaurants, health clubs, dentist offices, cleaners and the like), who will bring these relationships to Google? The local sales channel may not be the impenetrable armor that some suggest, but it remains an unrivaled advantage.
Nonetheless, this is a development that directory publishers have had time to anticipate and should take seriously.