Planet Discover, the pioneering local search and Internet Yellow Pages vendor, won’t sign new contracts with local media outlets that compete with Gannett newspaper and TV properties, according to sources. Gannett purchased Planet Discover in May 2006, but up to now has not interfered with its business development. Gannett’s decision leaves the local search field to competitors such as Local.com, Innovectra and HarvestInfo.
One plausible explanation for Gannett’s decision is that Planet Discover has its hands full Web-enabling its own properties. The local media giant has quite a handful, with 90 U.S. newspapers and 21 TV stations to convert. Planet Discover is also working with Gannett’s 17 U.K. newspapers. The need to focus on Gannett properties was one reason why Planet Discover has eased off a strategy that also emphasized verticals, such as travel.
A more troubling theory is that Gannett sees cross-town/cross-media rivals as cutting into its local search business. If there is any weight to the latter theory, it could be a mistake.
Isn’t it better for everyone — customers, advertisers, local media and Planet Discover — to build a local search product that drives the maximum amount of traffic it can? To have a newspaper and Gannett TV station selling the same product could only help to make it really viable for advertisers.
Some of Planet Discover’s best work, in fact, has been for companies outside the Gannett fold. The company’s “federated search” effort, for instance — combining local search, news articles, and ads — has really evolved with projects for GateHouse Media’s Southofboston.com and The Star Tribune’s ShopMinnesota.com.