Speakers on a spirited panel on the “Convergence of Local Media and Directories” here today at ILM:07/SES Local agreed that online directories need to embrace elements of search and social networking as well as Yellow Pages in order to be viable long term, and need to partner more aggressively since none can assemble all the necessary pieces on its own.
“Regardless of where you start, you need consumers and advertisers. Whether you are a social media site that has an audience and needs to add advertisers, or a site that starts with advertisers but needs to gain more users, you still end up in the same location,” said Robyn Rose, VP of marketing at Superpages.com. “Convergence is a necessity.”
Emad Fanous, CTO of YellowBot, a new player on the IYP scene, said local search sites have to deliver the quality of experience that consumers demand in order to be viable.
“Convergence is happening because of the demands of users,” said Fanous. “After using Google and Facebook, they start to demand more from local search.”
The panelists also agreed that a very open approach to cooperation with competitors is essential in order to build the level of content necessary to create a strong user experience, and to generate enough traffic to support their business models.
“User-generated content is being generated in many places,” said Malcolm Lewis, VP and GM, private label at Local.com. “The key is not to rely on user-generated content on your Web site. Aggregate user-generated content from any and all sources, you cannot rely only on [content] only generated on your site.”
Rose pushed back when asked by blogger and front row fixture Donna Bogatin if publishers were “capitulating” by relying on search engines (namely Google) as the origin of their traffic.
“Nationwide a majority of searches may begin on Google, but the majority of ours do not,” said Rose. “We have traffic partnerships with other companies. And I have an ad budget. We do a lot of online and offline advertising. It is not all about Google. We have found other ways to attract users.”