“This year is about social media, video and partnerships,” said Jay Herratti, president of Citysearch, during his keynote address today at the ILM:07 conference here in Los Angeles. In his first major presentation/interview since taking the helm at Citysearch eight months ago, Herratti shared with the roughly 600 attendees how his division of IAC has approached each of these areas in 2007 via acquisitions, launch of new product offerings and investments. In the past few months, Citysearch launched a video product in conjunction with TurnHere, acquired Insider Pages and just today announced an investment with MerchantCircle.
In particular, Herratti spoke about the newly announced Citysearch investment in MerchantCircle. It appears this is a way that Citysearch can test the waters with a self-service or “low-touch” model via a partner property. Herratti maintains that for the foreseeable future Citysearch’s sales force will continue to visit, call on and “touch” advertisers. The deal also enables Citysearch to extend its reach, exchange content between the two properties, and have MerchantCircle offer Citysearch’s advertising products.
With regard to social media, MerchantCircle is, as Herratti describes it, the largest social networking site for businesses with an estimated 300,000 merchants. The idea behind MerchantCircle is to essentially create a supportive peer-to-peer network through which businesses can post blogs, reviews and the like and encourage other businesses to sign up for the network, and, naturally purchase an advertising product or SEM/SEO services.
Interestingly, Herratti indicated that the biggest complaint, by far, that Citysearch receives from businesses is in regard to negative reviews posted about their businesses and the request to have those reviews removed from their profiles. With some of the negative comments that MerchantCircle has received over the past year regarding its merchant-acquisition methods, it will be interesting to see how the relationship with Citysearch will boost MerchantCircle’s reputation.
Tomorrow I will be moderating a panel on localized e-commerce here at ILM:07 and MerchantCircle’s head of business development, Doug Kilponen, will be speaking. We look forward to his input on this partnership and what the recent investment by Citysearch and others means for the future of these two companies.