A lot of discussion has taken place as to why the Yellow Pages industry has sat on the sidelines as the Web 2.0 world of social media, online video and greater consumer interaction has advanced in other media. Now enter Skype. Skype is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone system, allowing you to make calls through your PC over your Internet connection.
In a recent posting by Michael Boland, it was revealed that Skype has added a directory feature to its new beta offering called SkypeFind. While adding a directory feature makes sense for an online telephony provider, what is unique about Skype’s offering is that it is truly focused on leveraging its understanding of what online consumers are seeking. The beta version includes click-to-call features as well as standard business and residential listings. The current beta version is a self-provisioning site where listings can be added or updated for free. While no announcement has been made as to who is providing the data, a directory partnership would certainly make sense going forward in order to maintain an accurate database and to access and sell to the more than 15 million small and medium-sized enterprises in the U.S. This local market of SME businesses is where SkypeFind will gain momentum and ultimately monetize this new offering.
What is unique about Skype's take on directory is that it comes from a Web 2.0 perspective and has launched a social aspect to the typical local search. According to the beta Web site:
“There's a cool trick you can use when you are not sure what you're looking for exactly. Throughout the SkypeFind interface, you see the “Ask your friends” link. You can post a question to your friends there, such as “What's a good hotel in London?” Your mood message is then automatically set to this question, but with a twist: there's a link to a public chat that's automatically created. Now, when your contacts see your mood message and click on it, they are automatically added to this public chat. You can then chat about hotels in London together.”
As suggested on the Natural Search Blog:
“I can't help wondering if Skype couldn't turn the equation upside down for their advertisers, if they did keep the ads in-house. For instance, I bet that advertisers would be willing to pay the phone connection costs whenever Skype users called them. And, this VOIP environment is a natural fit for Pay-for-Call style advertising models. Actually, wouldn't it be cool if advertiser calls were sufficient to underwrite the costs of all users' Skype accounts? This sounds like a very Google-like business plan.”
Given this scenario, it sounds as though eBay, Skype's owner, may be trying to build a greater local presence by creating its own triple play of sorts with local auctions and listings and a social environment where consumers are linked via phone, chat, message boards and e-mail a sort of Web 2.0 triple play. This will be an interesting model to watch as more details emerge.