One year ago, head of AT&T Directory Operations Dennis Payne (apropos to the previous post) mentioned during his DDC keynote address that AT&T would push hard on bringing directory listings to new formats, most notably IPTV. Then last march at the Drilling Down on Local conference, Yellowpages.com CMO Matt Crowley presented some mock-ups of screenshots of how this might look as a feature on AT&T’s IPTV service (U-verse).
Now this week, as AT&T announced a milestone in IPTV subscribers, the first publicly available screenshots have begun to emerge showing the IYP module that can be found within the U-verse service package (Sebastien Provencher has screenshots).
This brings up an interesting point about the way things are moving: If you look at online video, a content format traditionally owned by the living room is gaining ground and finding new use cases on the PC. Now we also have things moving in the other direction, where IYP content is moving onto the television (media cross-pollination, as I like to call it).
These cases follow a general trend where content is becoming more and more pervasive across devices. This is at the heart of the bundled services (“triple play“) battle being waged by telcos and cable companies. It’s also behind the “platform agnosticism” you hear in nearly every business presentation given these days. This has evolved into the “three screen strategy” that many content providers, including Yellowpages.com, are touting to get in front of users with a continuity of services across mobile devices, PCs and televisions.
For U-Verse, IYP integration would be analogous to MSOs’ (most notably Comcast) integration of local classifieds ads that are browsable through the on-demand programming menu. Like Comcast, the challenge for AT&T will be creating an interface controlled by a television remote that isn’t so cumbersome as a departure from the way users are accustomed to searching or browsing online.
Generally, this represents one of the challenges for IPTV and for online video that is shared between the PC and television (the first glimpse of which we’ve seen from Apple TV).
To really unlock the interactive potential of IPTV, will we have keyboards and mice in the living room? Likely not, but IPTV promises better interactive capabilities for searching for programming, directory content, classifieds and many other things (explained here). Will this hit a wall with the lacking interactivity of a television remote? Perhaps some sort of tablet device will be developed.
As these questions are answered and as more content is available in more interactive ways on IPTV, usage will likely increase for IYP content, and other local search applications could find a home there. From this, a new local search use case could emerge, and advertiser demand could likewise grow, as it has online.
If this becomes a media outlet where consumers search for and find things locally, it should join cross-platform selling efforts of directory publishers. AT&T Advertising & Publishing is in a unique position in having a direct channel into U-verse. No other directory publisher has this, but partnerships will likely form to bring competitive branded IYP modules to other IPTV providers (ironically, Verizon), and possibly cable providers as well.
One of the biggest challenges, as with online video and performance-based ads, will be selling new ad units to small businesses. Cross-platform ad selling is being talked about more and more by directory publishers and possibly being embraced, finally, in earnest. This was a theme at last week’s joint ADP/ADM event, which John Kelsey attended and wrote about, and one that will be addressed at next week’s DDC conference.
This is also an important theme that will be raised in two part series of reports, the first of which will publish next week, on the challenges in selling online performance-based advertising and other bundled ad units to SMBs. We hope to hear your opinions on these topics.
Related: Following are related conference sessions at DDC next week:
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007
9:30 am – 10:30 am
Selling Search, SEO and Performance-Based Advertising
Yellow Pages publishers are staking much of their future online growth on selling access to traffic acquired through reseller relationships with major search engines. This panel will outline the challenges involved in selling search and look at how publishers have moved up the learning curve.
Daniel Deal, VP, Local Sales, Yellowpages.com
Kirsten Mangers, Cofounder and CEO, WebVisible
Alexandre Rambaud, Founder, Chairman and CEO, AgendiZe
Neil Salvage, Executive VP Sales and Service, Citysearch
11:00am – 12:00PM
The Evolution of 3-D, Video and Audio — The Future of Rich Media and Yellow Pages
Imagine moving from an aerial photo map view of a listed business in your hometown, moving down to the street level, then navigating through a 3-D rendering of the street the business is located on, then entering the store and viewing a video tour of the business, complete with a message from the owner on current special offers. Top it all off by making an online transaction — say scheduling a hair cut and redeeming a coupon for 10 percent off the price. All this is possible today, and much of it is happening. The question is, will this ever become the typical online directory search experience? We will put this question to a panel of leading-edge thinkers on online Yellow Pages and local search.
Rob Angel, Vice President, Merchant Product, Citysearch
Jeff Folckemer, Executive VP and COO, White Directory Publishers
John McWeeny, Senior VP, Business Development, TurnHere.com