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It may be awhile since you've thought about CitySearch, but the local listings site is not ready to roll over and let Google or Yelp corner the local ad market. Today CitySearch announced the launch of CityGrid, a bid to turn the company's voluminous local listings into the largest content and advertising network for local.
For businesses trying to get into local advertising, this could be useful. Part of the hurdle in compiling local content is filling in the details. And CitySearch, while less popular than it once was as a city guide, has listings in droves.
Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti hopes that his 12-year old company can maneuver itself easily, bringing local content to where people are. He tells TechCrunch:
“I thought what if I took all the tools that we put together to build Citysearch and put it on a platter, an API and web services layer. What if I open that up to publishers big and small? I let them take it and enhance their experience, and get more pageviews.”
That database of content could be useful to a lot of companies. CitySearch results already show up on Bing search, Local.com, Urbanspoon, Yellowpages.com, Loopt and Buzzd. But now CitySearch is selling its content as advertising. According to TechCrunch:
"Local merchants can sign up to get sponsored spots in search and elsewhere, and they pay for things like every time someone clicks on their menu, a video, their own merchant description, or makes a phone call for a reservation. They are paying for leads, and the same actions trigger payments on partner sites as well. But in that case, Citysearch is splitting the ad revenue with the publisher."
When the ads come from different sites — like Superpages, Yodel or Spafinder — the revenue is split three ways.
Citysearch recently opened up its content to 100 partners and went from 150,000 paid listings on its own site to 500,000 across its network. At the end of last year, CityGrid aggregated more than 500K paying advertisers, enhanced listings and content for 15 million businesses and reached over 100 million unique users across 100 web and mobile sites.
For businesses trying to break into the local space, CityGrid provides the opportunity. According to Matthew Booth, Senior Vice President of BIA/Kelsey:
"CityGrid is a compelling business model in a category where many are vying for market share and operating profits. For local advertisers and publishers, CityGrid presents a real alternative to search engine marketing which is getting more expensive and to organic traffic which is getting harder to secure."
And that gets to the heart of this move. Google and Yelp are fast honing in on local listings, but CitySearch is trying to place itself in contrast to those bigger players. From TechCrunch:
"Herratti positions CityGrid as a way fro local advertisers to reach consumers everywhere else. There is search marketing on Google and then there is the rest of the Web and mobile apps."