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Today brings two meaningful announcements in the answers space from SuperMedia and MerchantCircle. Answers is an area that seems to be getting more attention as a way for local merchants to differentiate themselves online and for local online media sites to generate social content that indexes well.

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SuperMedia has unveiled a new beta “social platform” called “AskLearnHire” from the same “skunkworks” product development team that developed its recent Twitter coupons product.

AskLearnHire is designed to match consumers at the research phase (i.e., higher in the purchase funnel). The site is initially focused on three categories — Mortgages, Remodeling and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Consumers looking for general answers about refinancing, remodeling, installing a new water heater and so on.

The new site funnels these questions to merchants, who answer the questions, and gain access to the leads that evolve from their participation in the answers process. This reflects two things about the post-bankruptcy SuperMedia (ex-Idearc). First, its emphasis on verticals. And second, its emphasis on developing multiple products quickly, pushing them into the marketplace and seeing what works. The skunkworks approach, and the willingness to occasionally fail that it reflects, are refreshing changes for a big Yellow Pages company.

MerchantCircle has been in the answers game for a while, accumulating 100,000 responses to questions on its Answers page. The company today announced deals with Demand Media and HelloMetro, aimed at strengthening its position in answers, which VP of Marketing Darren Waddell notes is a source of content with strong SEO value.

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MerchantCircle will work with Demand Media’s to route answers posted on that site through the MerchantCircle network. The top responses from MerchantCircle small-business members will be posted on Answerbag. This gives MerchantCircle members a change to create content that indexes well, and helps them differentiate themselves, while it gives Answerbag access to more experts to handle consumer questions.

The deal with HelloMetroinvolves MerchantCircle Answers powering an answers service on more than 1,000 of HelloMetro’s 1,500 hyperlocal sites in the United States. HelloMetro is all about providing hyperlocal editorial content, as well as access to directories and classfieds. MerchantCircle will also faciliate connections between merchants and consumers on HelloMetro via its social networking platform.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The content strategy to entice the Google spider is yesterdays newspapers. What are they thinking? O.K. everyone jump on Superpages to get the answer to the meaning of life. Remember when a press release was worth reading.

  2. Thanks for the comment. To your points, I think the idea is more about getting answers to questions like, “How do I evaluate an HVAC contractor?” than “What is the meaning of life?” Though I suspect you know this and are just being a tad snarky, which honestly, isn’t hard to do under cover of anonymity. I think companies like SuperMedia are damned if they try new things, and damned if they stick to their knitting. Bottom line, SuperMedia and its peer companies need to step it up substantially on both innovation and even more so on execution. I am seeing some recent signs of progress on these fronts, but it is impossible to say if it will be enough. Your snarkiness may well be justified. Or it may be what I suspect, a reflexive response to anything a directory publisher tries to do.

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