Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yellow Pages heal yourself!

Thanks to Adam for finding this post on a Web 2.0 panel at Mix 06. Essentially a number of tech luminaries (Tim O'Reilly, Jeremy Zawodny, Michael Arrington, and yes even you Adam :)) responded to a question about the future of the classified model. They 'agreed' the model was going to die regardless of it being on or offline due to content aggregators (such as Google) cannabilizing revenue and the increasing relevance of user-generated collective intelligence sites (such as Yelp) drawing away users. Classifieds are just too Web 1.0 apparently...

Quite dire that. While I'm a huge fan of 'Web 2.0' (even I'm getting tired of calling it that), I'm not in complete agreement with the aforementioned panel. Offline classifieds are doing step 1 fairly quickly - going online. Take as an example. Owned by Verizon, Superpages is ranked 329 by Alexa. From that lofty position, Superpages (and other classified models) have a clear opportunity to enable a lot of things which make Yelp (4,851 but growing quickly), JudysBook (6,841) and InsiderPages (10,085) increasingly popular - namely user-generated local content that is shareable - which in turn promotes viral growth. While Google is a great tool for data discovery, it does a far worse job in helping decipher, filter and screen that content, or building a community to generate user reviews (i.e. I'm not going to go to Google to find a great contractor).

The other thing to remember is that often these old-school classified players have large salesforces to reach all those small businesses out there. If those teams could be used to not only capture sales, but capture more relevant, catalog-friendly data on those businesses, this could help drive better search results... (i.e. give me an auto-repair shop that fixes interiors vs tire repair)

While the shift from Web 1.0 (base classifieds) to Web 2.0 (classifieds enriched via user-content) is a difficult pill, it's not impossible. And its far from a death sentence so long as the cure is applied...


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