RealTime IT News

AOL, Citysearch Ally Over Ads

With AOL's business under increasing scrutiny, the online media pioneer has signed a deal with Citysearch to strengthen its local ad sales.

Citysearch, a division of rival Web media giant IAC, operates local search and business directory Web sites in cities around the country. Those sites include restaurant and bar reviews, travel guides and insider blogs.

The pages of Citysearch are also full of lucrative advertisements from local businesses. With the addition of Citysearch content through the alliance, AOL sees a way to boost the local ad inventory it offers through Platform A, its consolidated advertising division.

[cob:Related_Articles]Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti touted the synergies the partnership would create, saying in a statement that "Citysearch's content is great for AOL's audience, [and] AOL's reach is great for Citysearch's advertisers who will gain access to qualified local customers and the ability to deliver a consistent message across the Web."

The partnership also will enable AOL to leverage Citysearch's existing relationships with regional businesses, providing the AOL advertising machine a deeper local focus than it has achieved through Platform A units like Advertising.com.

In particular, the deal will give local businesses in Citysearch's Local Advertising Network the chance to place their ads on AOL's local Web properties, such as CityGuide, Local Search and MapQuest.

A spot on AOL's heavily trafficked media network could come as a great boost to the visibility of Citysearch content.

According to online metrics firm comScore, AOL saw 109 million unique visitors across its network of sites in January. In the same month, Citysearch sites had 15 million unique visitors.

A spokeswoman for AOL said the company would begin integrating content from Citysearch into some of its Web properties next month, and would continue adding more throughout the year.

By some estimates, 2008 will be a boom year for locally targeted advertising. The global market-analysis firm Research and Markets has predicted that local ad spending will jump 48 percent this year to $12.6 billion, driven in large part by online video and local search. Spending on locally placed video ads will triple this year to reach $1.3 billion, according to the firm.

Those predictions -- and AOL's efforts to capitalize on them -- comes as AOL, a division of Time Warner, is headed for a shakeup.

Earlier this month, Time Warner CEO Jeffery Bewkes said he planned to split AOL into two units, with one focused on advertising, and the other managing its dial-up ISP business.

Still, AOL's deal with Citysearch may mean it's the last guest to arrive at the party. On its Web site, Citysearch tells advertisers that placing their ad on Citysearch will get it placed on Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask.