AT&T has unveiled a new version of its Yellowpages.com online directory, complete with a new name (YP.com); a new algorithmic approach to search; updated maps; and a set of vertical integrations with leading partners in cars, hotels, events and movies.
AT&T Interactive GM Greg Isaacs told us in a briefing today that the site was redone to focus on “what really makes consumers tick at a local level.” The four verticals featured on the site today are just a beginning, Isaacs said. More vertical experiences will be added in the coming months.
Aside from the obvious improvements in the site’s content and performance, there is a significant branding story here. AT&T’s predecessor companies (SBC and BellSouth) spent a pretty penny (about US$100 million) to acquire the Yellowpages.com URL back in 2004.
Today, AT&T made it clear that the term “Yellow Pages” doesn’t really fit with what the company wants to be now and in the future, particularly with its online and mobile portfolio.
This decision is consistent with the broader industry trend away from explicit references to Yellow Pages in favor of brands that can absorb other meanings. Think Dex One, Sensis, Truvo, ZipLocal, Eniro and so on. Not much “Yellow” or “Pages” in any of these brands. Granted, some of these are corporate rather than consumer facing brands, but all were unveiled at least in part to distance their owners from the Yellow Pages heritage.
Isaacs said AT&T research showed that YP.com evokes the Yellow Pages heritage without weighing the brand down with the limitations the term conveys — namely, that it’s a traditional print medium that is used more for getting your carpets cleaned than planning a romantic getaway.
We asked Isaacs if AT&T was prepared to invest sufficiently to build the YP.com brand and differentiate it from other local search and Yellow Pages sites. He told us a comprehensive marketing plan was in the works but said he couldn’t offer more detail.
A big emphasis of today’s briefing was on the shift to algorithmic search and the vertical integrations. On the search side, results are now driven by proximity and popularity (clicks and reviews) compared with the more traditional Yellow Pages model that pushed paid advertisers over relevance. The new site also offers neighborhood search, which Isaacs said will be refined and improved over time.
In addition, the site features new Bing maps that include traffic info and roll-over driving directions. YP.com also now offers both businesses and consumers the opportunity to amend listings (subject to validation). For example, if a consumer sees a listing for a restaurant she knows has closed down, she can note this on the listing, and subject to confirmation, it will be removed. A business can add content to its listing in the same manner.
The vertical integrations add a serious transactional capability, all while remaining inside the YP.com domain. For example, restaurants that are OpenTable.com clients have the “reserve a table” capability built into the listing so a consumer can book a table within YP.com using OpenTable. AT&T has done similar integrations with Vast.com (to search for new and used cars), Hotels.com for travel and Zvents for events. The whole idea, according to Isaacs, is to create a seamless user experience.
Is the new site revolutionary? Maybe not. But it is a well-executed leap forward. SuperMedia similarly has upgraded its site with the consumer experience placed front and center. The big challenge for AT&T will be to make the new brand resonate with consumers as a place to go for movies, cars, hotels, places to eat and so on. That will take both resources and creativity, so we’re anxious to learn more about the company’s marketing plan for YP.com.