It’s Official: CitySearch Buys Insider Pages

My sources got it right and IAC’s Citysearch is the company that ended up with Insider Pages. Dinesh Moorjani, Citysearch's new VP of strategy and corporate development, says that Citysearch will incorporate Insider's 600,000 reviews from 30 markets into its sites. Combined, they’ll have about a million reviews.

According to Moorjani, Insider Pages will be kept alive as a separate site, as IAC develops a “multi-brand” strategy. The site attracts 2 million unique visitors per month, per comScore. But will Insider Pages, in fact, become the new name for Citysearch itself? There have been rumors to that effect. Moorjani, however, says they don’t have any credence.

Moorjani wouldn't comment on the cost of the acquisition, which has been rumored to be about $8.5 million  the same amount as its last round of financing in March 2006. Nor would he confirm that there is about 10 percent overlap in Citysearch and Insider Pages reviews, which would be relatively small.

But he did say that Citysearch is especially interested in leveraging Insider's bounty of “Home and Garden” and “Health and Beauty” reviews. Insider was targeted to women and apparently did especially well in these areas. But the women angle has been overstated, says Moorjani. In fact, Insider Pages has much more broadly representative usage.

The freshness of Insider's reviews has also been a question mark. The company has been citing the “600,000” level for about a year. While it quickly ramped up its gross number of reviews by handing out $10 Starbucks cards to writers of 10 reviews, the growth seemed to end when it stopped handing out the cards (and similar promotions).

But Moorjani notes that on both Citysearch and Insider Pages, many reviews may be considered to be less time-sensitive. Citysearch itself has been expunging dated reviews from its database, some going back several years. The number of its remaining reviews come to 400,000.

One area that Insider Pages did well in was by leveraging SEO, bringing more traffic to the reviews, and to related advertising via Google. Moorjani confirmed that the site’s SEO competencies will play an ongoing role. But they are not “the major reason” why Citysearch bought the company.

Moorjani also says that the “learnings” from Insider's experiments with a print directory of the “best reviews” in Pasadena are definitely valuable. He suggests they could lead to something in the future. But there is no commitment to launch a similar effort at this point.

To me, it was surprising that Insider Pages ended up with Citysearch, which does well with community, instead of YellowPages.com, SuperPages, R.H. Donnelley or Yellow Book. In any case, they'll all be battling for reviews, against one another; against Yelp, which has a lot of momentum; against copycat sites, like MojoPages.com in San Diego; and against various local sites, such as The Bakersfield Californian's new Inside Guide, which launched last week. Bakersfield, in fact, has set up a separate unit to license its user-generated content platform. The first newspaper to license the platform is Gannett’s Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

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