Citysearch Expands Menu of Features

Citysearch earlier this week announced it will partner with MenuPages to integrate its menu content into local restaurant listings. I finally got the chance to catch up with Rob Angel, Citysearch VP of merchant products, yesterday to ask what this means for the company, and how it augments other ongoing efforts in what seems like a content-building blitz.

First, MenuPages clearly brings more content into the fold for Citysearch, which has been engaged in a general effort to redefine itself over the past year. This redefinition was made most apparent with May’s redesign, which was coupled with the launch of small-business video advertising. This in turn came two months after the acquisition of Insider Pages, which brought the company a large bucket of review content.

The MenuPages content integration now clearly augments these efforts in strengthening Citysearch’s core category of restaurants.

“We’re obviously very focused on restaurants. We provide a lot of value there, and we have to consistently show more and more value to that audience,” says Angel. “Our whole goal is to put people inside the restaurant. Part of that is a menu, and part of that is picking up a vibe from a video that is impossible to articulate in photo or text.”

If you think about it, reviews are most conducive to restaurants (as we’ve known for some time, and as Yahoo!’s Brian Gil pointed out to us yesterday). Meanwhile, video is an ad medium that has likewise proved to resonate with restaurant owners. And now, with MenuPages, you can put it all together to see a clear strategy to boost user appeal in this core category.

“It rounds out our portrayal of a restaurant, and we’re trying to bring the person more and more inside the experience,” says Angel. “All of these efforts work towards hitting the five senses. It’s going to be a long time before we get smell and taste, but in the meantime, we can do a lot with the other ones.”

The next step in this content integration could bring in other content that utilizes what Angel sees as a high-value interaction.

“Someone reading a menu of a restaurant is a lot more high value than their view of a map for example,” he says. “So we’re going to continue to put things around that to entice people to engage with that restaurant. We’re evolving down the conversion path.”

Going Down Many Paths

So what’s up next for Citysearch? You can bet it will continue to bring in content that is appropriate to restaurants and also categories in which it is trying to build more gravitas, such as health and beauty and home and garden (one of the drivers for the Insider Pages acquisition).

The company won’t tip its hand for good reason, but we believe there will be more to come in this general redefinition. As we pointed out in the Advisory Citysearch’s New Era: Video, Personalization and Social Media, it could continue to put a number of developments and revenue diversification moves in play.

This will come as video ad units join nationally geared display placements and pay-per-click ads throughout its site. A wider variety of ad types could continue to be integrated, such as appointment scheduling within certain professional service categories or other transactional features.

Through these developments, it is likely Citysearch will evolve into a more typical Internet media model where the consumer content around key verticals and profiles is the cornerstone in building an audience. Advertisers will then be offered several ad types and programs — including, as of late, video — to target that audience.

Citysearch as a result could become a stronger, more broadly defined local search site that is increasingly competitive with IYPs. Combine this with the growth of its sales force and beating many IYPs to the punch with video advertising, and it will be a company to watch closely.

You can bet it is closely watching outward, with a keen eye on the local media space, toward what to bring into the fold next.

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