Re-Launches as Directory Site

InfoSpace said on Monday that its site is now devoted to providing directory services, in a further example of the melding of online directories and local search.

The newly redesigned features a Google-like interface dedicated to directory services, from white pages to yellow pages. The site features typical online directory services, such as reverse lookup and public records search, in addition to Web search via InfoSpace’s metasearch engine, Dogpile. Other features include maps and directions; e-mail search; and the ability for a user to set a default location.

With the redesign, InfoSpace hopes to tap into the growing market for local search. The thumping success of the paid listings industry has made local search the next frontier for paid listings. InfoSpace will use paid listings from Overture Services in its directory results, under the tab “featured sites.” For example, a search for a plumbing contractor in New York yields three paid listings from Overture at the top of the page, followed by yellow pages listings from Verizon’s is the latest entry in the blurring market for online directories and local search. In the directory space, SBC is trumpeting its as a competitor to Meanwhile, Westboro, Mass.-based Switchboard has emerged as a formidable competitor, inking a contextual advertising deal with Google in July to display its AdSense contextual listings on some of its directory results pages. Switchboard followed up two weeks ago with LocalClicks, a homegrown ad product for buying links on non-commercial listings. For example, a flower company could have a “buy flowers” link on funeral home and hospital listings.

Yahoo!’s directory section, Get Local, is the top-ranked directory site, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, drawing 18.1 million visitors in July. trails far behind with 7.5 million visitors. Switchboard garnered 5.2 million and 3.7 million.

The search industry sees a great opportunity to recreate the paid listings template on the local level through directory-type sites. In March, InterActive-owned Citysearch began giving advertisers the ability to move up to a “featured listings” tab on the results page of searches on Citysearch’s local sites. Meanwhile, Google has inked a few local-flavored deals in addition to the Switchboard partnership. In June, it struck an AdWords deal with MapQuest to serve paid listings in categories like hotels and restaurants by combining searchers self-identified location with the category name. For instance, a user requesting a map of Philadelphia would receive AdWords listings for “Philadelphia restaurant” and “Philadelphia hotel.”

Overture recently began testing its local search product, which it plans to release before the end of the year. An InfoSpace spokesman said he did not know if the company would use Overture’s local search product.

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