RealTime IT News

Citysearch Gets More Social

Citysearch, one of the granddaddies of online local resource providers, is jumping on two of the hottest trends in computing: social media and mobile. Thursday's Citysearch announced an expansion from 150 local city guides to over 75,000 cities and neighborhoods across the countries.

Back in 1996, Citysearch was one of the first Web companies to create an online version of the Yellow Pages, putting many local business listings online for the first time. Now it hopes to leverage the biggest social network in the U.S., Facebook.

A new feature allows Citysearch users to log-in and automatically connect to their Facebook identities via Facebook Connect. Rather than shuffle between the two services, Citysearch users can, for example, write and share reviews with friends on Facebook.

Citysearch has also added new mobile functionality that extends its reach into local neighborhoods. CEO Jay Herratti said the overhaul is based on feedback from Citysearch users. "What users told us is they wanted a great Web site where they can find and create content for local businesses all the way down to their neighborhood," Herratti said in a statement.

"We feel that with the three voices, you can find on Citysearch, the voice of the customer, the voice of the business owner and editor, we have restored a balance to city guides that has been lost," Herratti added.

In an interview with the New York Times, Herratti admitted the changes were overdue. "We got a little bit stale. Our consumers were telling us to get modern," he told the Times. "We need to become the next-generation local guide."

He also said Citysearch is transitioning from primarily staff written reviews to more user generated content, much like one of its biggest competitors, Yelp.

Tapping into millions

Analyst Charlene Li said the improvements are a very smart move. "Rather than try and create a new friends network they tap into the network millions of people are already on," Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, a digital strategy consulting firm, told InterenetNews.com. "So you can connect with people whose opinion on, say, restaurants you already trust. It's a very logical extension of their business."

Social media strategist Paul Gillin says local markets have been a huge untapped source of revenue for years because they're hard to reach.

"Local is the great, vast unconquered domain of the Internet," said Gillin. "No one does a particularly good job of serving people at the local level because it requires so much individual attention. It really needs to be a bottom's up approach with user participation that you see in services like Craigslist and Angies List because it takes too much money to manage everything at the local level."

Gillin agrees with Li that linking Citysearch users to Facebook made sense because it would be too hard for the company to try and grow on it own. "They could also see a big advertising payoff in mobile," Gillin told InternetNews.com. "Small businesses will pay to have their locations immediately available to people passing by."

Dinesh Moorjani, senior vice president for Citysearch Mobile said the new mobile service is designed to make it easier for users to find "relevant local information from anywhere they choose and participate in the online conversation."