As my colleague Mike Boland noted this morning, the new version of Citysearch is finally out, and it’s a good effort that is appropriately heavy on video and personalization. The change coincides with new leadership at the company. Jay Herratti, who had previously been a senior exec at IAC’s Home Shopping Network, replaced longtime president Briggs Ferguson at the beginning of March.
For the video production, the IAC division partnered with TurnHere, a video production company with videographers around the U.S. and in several other countries. TurnHere crews have been shooting video for advertisers since April 1. More than 300 advertisers are already up in Citysearch markets all around the U.S., with 400 more commissioned and waiting to get done.
The one-minute videos are professional quality, and come gratis for advertisers that agree to an $800 monthly cap, although a six-month contract is required. I’d guess that the value of the videos is more than $500.
Content head Scott Morrow says that Citysearch is paying TurnHere a flat fee for each video. He also notes that it is Citysearch, not the advertiser, who gets to keep the footage. Potentially, the ownership of rights gives Citysearch a video library that can be used for other purposes, a la the stock footage that Spot Runner and DMC are using for their production.
Looking forward, Morrow says up to 10,000 videos could be produced by the end of the year. “We have more than 10,000 advertisers,” he says. Those that aren’t willing to boost their contract to the $800 monthly cap — which I imagine includes the majority of Citysearch advertisers — will probably be offered monthly deals, with video production costs billed as an add-on fee. “There will be different types of packaging. Long term, every profile should have video,” Morrow suggests. “Everyone wants to be on TV.”
While “merchant video” is the initial emphasis, Morrow says that “editorial video” will be introduced over the next several months, with videos shot around community themes, holidays, etc. The videos will probably be supported with pre-roll and post-roll advertising, and TurnHere is a business development partner for this aspect of the deal. TurnHere already provides community video for demo purposes on its own site.
The second major part of the Citysearch re-release involves several new personalization elements. A “MyCitysearch Summary” box, for instance, welcomes users and shows recently viewed pages, and personalized recommendations. This is probably especially effective for the 20 percent of Citysearch users that have registered for multiple cities (like me).
The recommendation engine was built in-house and was quietly introduced a while back on Citysearch’s profile page. In the second half of the year, “we’ll really build out the personalization platform,” Morrow says.
Morrow notes that Citysearch’s branding is also being tightened in conjunction with the overhaul, and there will be a tighter focus on Arts, Entertainment & Leisure (including health and fitness). “There is going to be a refinement of what we stand for.” While Yellow Pages and services will still get attention, they’ll be downplayed for now, he says.