Una web local mucho más social, Citysearch USA

Esta noche leía un artículo interesantísimo acerca de lo que ha supuesto para citysearch.com el haber incluido Facebook connect, da que pensárselo, ¡¡¡los datos son impresionantes la verdad!!!

A More Local, Social Citysearch
March 19, 2009, 12:00 am
New York Times
By Claire Cain Miller
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/a-more-local-social-citysearch/?hp

Citysearch is unveiling a new Web site on Thursday that will make the site more social and more local — and, the site hopes, stanch its loss of readers.

Citysearch was one of the first Web companies to create an online version of the Yellow Pages when, in 1996, it put local business listings online. Since then, many other sites have tried the same thing. Some, like Judy’s Book, have sprouted and wilted (and, recently, sprouted again), while others, like Yelp, have become strong competitors to Citysearch.

Citysearch has been testing the new site with 1 percent of its customers since November, when we wrote about several of the planned changes. The new version, said Jay Herratti, Citysearch’s chief executive, will make the site more hyper-local and mobile with more user-generated content and social networking.

“We got a little bit stale. Our consumers were telling us to get modern,” he said. “We need to become the next-generation local guide.”

Mr. Herratti took over at Citysearch in April 2007, after jobs in strategy and ad sales at IAC, which owns Citysearch. His job has been to bring the site into the Web 2.0, mobile world in which Yelp is thriving. His approach to competition like Yelp: “You watch and then you get better.”

Citysearch is still the leader, but its lead is fading fast. According to Web analytics firm Compete, Citysearch had 24.9 million visitors in February, down 21 percent from the year before, while Yelp more than doubled its monthly visitors to 20.5 million in that time period. ComScore, which measures page views more conservatively, said that Citysearch had 13.4 million visitors in February to Yelp’s 6.6 million, but also found that Yelp more than doubled its visitors in a year while Citysearch lost 6 percent of its traffic.

Citysearch’s new site includes 75,000 neighborhood guides instead of the previous 150 city guides, so instead of searching for sushi in New York, viewers can look for sushi in the East Village or the Meatpacking District. That will enable Citysearch to provide detailed information in a lot more places than it had before — like the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis, for example — and many more places than Yelp, which is currently in 24 cities.

Since November, Facebook members have been able to sign in to Citysearch using their Facebook log-ins via Facebook Connect. Then, their friends’ favorite restaurants and bars show up at the top of their Citysearch listings and they can publish their reviews to Facebook.

This meant changing Citysearch’s concept of itself from a stand-alone site to a service that publishes content all over the Web, Mr. Herratti said, and it has paid off. In the four months the site has been testing Facebook Connect, 94 percent of reviewers have published their reviews to Facebook, where an average of 40 people see them and 70 percent click back to Citysearch. That has translated into new members: daily registrations on Citysearch have tripled.

Perhaps the biggest change is a new spotlight on user reviews. Citysearch has a large editorial staff, unlike Yelp, which gets all of its reviews from readers. Citysearch first enabled people to write reviews on the site in 2000, but has always buried them under professionally written reviews. That is changing: “I would like people to think first of Citysearch as a user-generated content site,” Mr. Herratti said.

The new version of the site gives user reviews a more prominent place on businesses’ profile pages, in parallel columns next to business owners’ own summary of the company (if they advertise) and editors’ reviews, “to show we consider them equal,” Mr. Herratti said.

Citysearch is trying to strike a tricky balance between the voices of businesses and users. “The voice of the consumer is really loud, and almost threw it off balance,” Mr. Herratti said. That is why he gives businesses a louder voice than they get on Yelp. “It has to be a conversation about businesses to allow for the different voices to come through — it can’t be one voice over the other.”

On Citysearch, businesses and editors can publicly reply to user reviews on the site. That is different from Yelp, which has angered some small businesses by not allowing them to respond to user reviews.

Citysearch’s new site also does away with its old ranking algorithm and ranks user reviews based on chronology and whether other readers voted that they found the review useful. Small businesses often feel frustrated by mysterious ranking algorithms.

To get more user-generated content, Citysearch is also starting 10 new Web sites — ones for shoes, hair and cheap eats are already live — where users upload pictures of a cut from a certain salon or new sneakers from a particular shoe store and editors and readers comment on them. Citysearch will import the discussion onto its main site. The sites are a way to get “good, free voices and content that can live on Citysearch,” Mr. Herratti said.

User-generated content also comes from Citysearch’s mobile site, which went live in 2007 and was re-done in November to let users write reviews from their phones. It is still small but is now providing significant ad revenue, Mr. Herratti said.

Since the fall, display ad sales are off by 50 percent, but they account for less than 10 percent of revenue. Local ads — in the form of small businesses sponsoring their profile pages — have remained steady, Mr. Herratti said.

Local ad spending will fall from $155 billion last year to $137 billion in 2011, predicted the Kelsey Group and BIA Advisory Services. Yet local online ad spending will increase to $23 billion, from $14 billion, during that time.

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