Is Word of Mouth the Great Local Search Disruptor?
March 28, 2008
Was reading this morning a great analysis by Mathew Ingram about a New York Times article describing the way “young people” get/read their political news. It’s clearly more and more about word of mouth and your social graph.
As Mathew says: “It’s not that there is anything earth-shatteringly new in the piece, mind you. But I think it does a great job of describing how digital “word of mouth” — in other words, social networking of all kinds including Twitter, IM, Facebook and so on — has become a dominant means of news delivery for young people in a way that I’m not sure old geezers like myself quite grasp, no matter how often people describe it”
The Times sums it up: “In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one. (…) In one sense, this social filter is simply a technological version of the oldest tool in politics: word of mouth.”
What it means: I remember when I joined Yellow Pages Group in 1999 (called Bell ActiMedia at the time), old-timers used to tell me that the biggest “competitor” to directory publishers wasn’t other directory publishers (or Google or other online directories), it was word of mouth. People have always asked their friends for recommendations and it has always represented a large volume of local search “queries”.
Admittedly, news and local search are not totally the same. Local search information is usually more of a pull (i.e. someone looking for a product/service) than a push (i.e. someone broadcasting information about a new merchant they found). It’s also more “evergreen” than news, i.e. unless you’re a total local merchant junkie, you don’t need to learn in a timely fashion about a new restaurant opening in your neighborhood. But there’s the seed out there of future consumer behavior which could create a great disruption effect on local search. Who knows? It might become valuable to broadcast information about your favorite local merchants. As I estimated in this blog post, there’s potentially 7 more times online local conversations than online directories searches currently. Anyone who successfully harness these conversations will create very valuable local search inventory.