AT&T Launches YP.com as Webby Complement to Yellowpages.com

AT&T Interactive today launched a beta version of YP.com, a Web site that won’t be heavily promoted but will add cutting-edge features to searches, such as expandable local maps in results, aggregated SMB content, and videos, coupons and other promotions. AT&T bought the URL for $3.85 million from LiveDeal in January 2009.

A company blog post notes that YP.Com Beta “sharpens the local search experience by providing consumers with increased relevant local results, while providing advertisers with more relevant targeting.” The addition of YP.com as a complement to the Yellowpages.com flagship is akin to what has been expected at Idearc, which has been planning to launch LocalSearch.com as a complement to Superpages.com.

Chief Product Officer David Yoo, a TellMe and PayPal veteran who has been with AT&T for a year and a half, says YP.com is a “foundational effort” to help consumers discover local, while “helping advertisers grow their business in the complicated media marketplace.”

Yoo notes that the site has been “built from the ground up.” It features a new search engine that stresses relevancy. It also provides a full range of advertising opportunities, including pay-per-call, and cross-distribution with vertical partners (presumably like apartment sites, wedding sites, etc.). The site’s uncluttered home page features popular videos of local businesses; recently reviewed businesses; popular categories; and popular local business.

In coming months, “well-known media partners” are likely to come on board, with AT&T both hosting them on its sites, and providing content to their sites, adds Yoo. The key is to get consumers who are up for “discovery” and who will want to be more participatory. “What’s the point of media without creating a dialog?” he asks, rhetorically.

In fact, becoming more of a “media” company appears to be a major reason for the development of YP.com. AT&T announced this week that it will be selling display ads using Yahoo’s behavioral targeting technology; that makes the need to aggregate eyeballs more  important.

The difference with the company’s existing Yellowpages.com site is that it isn’t likely to focus as much on any media aspirations. Yellowpages.com is where people will “go because they want to find something quickly” on a platform “they can trust,” says Yoo.

Indeed, the reality is that Yellowpages.com, which has 20 million monthly unique visitors, remains the company’s flagship. It will continue to receive the lion’s share of promotion, and will continue to receive investment. Members of Yellowpages.com’s publisher network, for instance, will still be steered to Yellowpages.com rather than YP.com. Additionally, there are no plans for external promotion of YP.com beyond some SEO and “viral” things.

Yoo stresses, however, that AT&T hopes that both sites stake out their own unique places in the ecosystem, along with AT&T’s print and U-verse interactive TV directory products. Speaking more broadly, Yoo notes that the company is now setting a mission for “how to truly win in local” for the next three to five years.

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