At the end of the second day of Marketplaces 2009, my colleague Matt Booth made a statement and then asked a follow-up question. He said, “most of what I’ve been hearing from the podium is optimistic. Don’t people realize that this is a challenging business environment? Is this optimism my imagination, or is it real?” It is a fair question to ask whether the people who are able to attend Marketplaces this year are those who are doing well. It is also fair to say that most people aren’t going to sit at a head table and be negative. Still, the overwhelming mood was upbeat.
The morning keynote address was given by Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti, who is clearly bullish on the digital marketplace. He sounded a theme that many of the speakers followed up on: To win in this market, you need to be more local, more mobile, more social and more balanced (with a mixture of users, merchants and experts participating). This theme was repeated throughout the day.
The last session focused on The Directory Play in Marketplaces. Given the negative news surrounding the Yellow Pages industry, you would not expect that this would be a terribly optimistic group, but it was to this panel that Matt raised the issue of optimism. Every speaker was positive. Andrei Uglar is general manager of Weblocal.ca, which is a partnership between the giant Transcontinental Media and YellowBot, a local search site for finding and reviewing local businesses and services. Launched only four months ago, Weblocal.ca has more than 2 million unique visitors and over 3 million page views monthly. Its strategy is to keep the sale simple. It leverages Transcontinental Media’s 400 newspaper sales reps and facilitate sales by offering only one package that offers a full range of services. There is a onetime set-up fee of $200 and the cost is $89 per month regardless of market size or category. Most importantly, it is able to build on the long-standing relationships between its newspaper reps and their customers.
Emad Fanous, cofounder of YellowBot, was equally bullish on the business saying that the key to success is a good tag team that can put this together and Weblocal has this team.
Michael Oschmann of Germany’s Müller Medien echoed the other panelists in saying that his business was strong despite Google’s dominant market share in Germany.
When asked about the trends they see, the panelists came back to the same points Citysearch’s Herratti had raised at the beginning of the day: local, mobile, social and increased user participation. The one point that they added was another that speakers talked about during the day and that is the importance of video.
Neal Polachek commented about the number of deals that people had told him were being done at the conference. I heard the same thing from exhibitors. The bottom line is that, at least at Marktplaces 2009, the mood is overwhelmingly optimistic.