I’m restraining myself from using the term "Web2.0," which really is on the cusp of cliche status. But Judy’s Book has done some very interesting things to its site that if I were comfortable using that term … might describe some of what they’ve done.
First, they’ve redesigned the site in a much more graphically dynamic way. That may disorient some users but it creates a very distinctive look for the site (maps are prominent) and takes it farther away from the realm of directory sites than before. It also differentiates the site from its closest cousin online, InsiderPages.
You can search for dentists or restaurants or hair salons as usual. But the site has also added a significant personalization component, "MyBook." MyBook is a personalized "home page" within JudysBook where users can see their questions, others’ questions and recommendations in their area as well as a personal "directory" of local information, including local business contact information. It’s the start page when I log in — essentially a blog. I can also upload photos and invite friends, etc. (similar in many respects to Yelp, Tribe or Yahoo! 360).
This change subtly and not so subtly shifts the emphasis of the site from one that is more "utilitarian," where I go to find a plumber or Ethiopian restaurant to something more like an online community where I might be inclined to spend more time and interact more extensively with people regarding things to do, places to go, etc., in my area.
But the clever folks at Judy’s Book are mindful that some people already have blogs and so they’ve adopted an export, structured blogging feature that amounts to a kind of syndication strategy. From the press release:
Recognizing that many online authors already have a traditional blog, Judy's Book has also made it easy for members to take their Judy's Book content with them via a new "post to my blog" feature. This optional feature automatically formats Judy's Book reviews in the hReview microformat, an emerging standard for online reviews, and reposts them to the member's existing TypePad, LiveJournal, Blogger, or WordPress blog.
That "syndication" approach (also the "interoperability" with all the major blogging platforms) is also reflective of "Web2.0" trends. Syndication has been around forever, but there’s an emerging understanding that the decentralized nature of online behavior requires new ways and strategies to reach people where they are rather than always trying to get them to show up at your door or trying to erect so-called "walled gardens," whether visible or invisible, to their use of other systems.
I tell people that every time I expect things to calm down in local, they just keep speeding up. One of the very interesting trends is the marriage of social/community and local, which is a natural of course (online word of mouth). And all the new attention, energy and competition in the space can only lead to consolidation in the near term.