I was inspired this morning by a “tweet” from Simon Baptist, a product manager at [praized subtype="small" pid="1f65a14804f64b04e4179c640c5de86b1d" type="badge" dynamic="true"], who was “pondering the business value for Publishers to deploy a local search strategy”. It’s also something I spend a lot of time thinking these days within the context of this blog and as co-founder of Praized Media.

I now sincerely believe local search will permeate everything we do on the Web, in the same way we live our life “locally” as well (that famous statement that most of us buy products & services from a fifty miles radius around our home and workplace). Browsers (powered by Mozilla’s Geode, Google’s Gears Geolocation API or [praized subtype="small" pid="1a373df80cc2da9bb3d31743fd8be5e719" type="badge" dynamic="true"]‘ Loki) will all be location-aware, smart mobile devices (like the iPhone or the Blackberry Bold) will make our local lives much easier. And all this local commerce will have an important social component, with the ability to “ping” your extended social graph for advice and feedback.

Local search will be the online equivalent of product placements in the movies. The way you easily monetize content in a relevant, contextual and subtle local way, by allowing your readers to find the place where they can buy a product or service they’ve read (heard, seen) about in an online magazine, newspaper, TV/video site, blog, social network, etc.).

Local search is the “Last Mile” of Web search and enabling companies like [praized subtype="small" pid="e0ed1f26245cb054822081ab116d8471" type="badge" dynamic="true"], [praized subtype="small" pid="c0208bbf51b03f3b31eb8972697cce1e" type="badge" dynamic="true"], FAST, [praized subtype="small" pid="1a4d80ac5edf63f4545420c318a607f315" type="badge" dynamic="true"], Localeze, Navteq and Praized Media (amongst others) are building the “pipes” to connect the online world to real world commerce.

I was inspired this morning by a “tweet” from Simon Baptist, a product manager at [praized subtype="small" pid="1f65a14804f64b04e4179c640c5de86b1d" type="badge" dynamic="true"], who was “pondering the business value for Publishers to deploy a local search strategy”. It’s also something I spend a lot of time thinking these days within the context of this blog and as co-founder of Praized Media.

I now sincerely believe local search will permeate everything we do on the Web, in the same way we live our life “locally” as well (that famous statement that most of us buy products & services from a fifty miles radius around our home and workplace). Browsers (powered by Mozilla’s Geode, Google’s Gears Geolocation API or [praized subtype="small" pid="1a373df80cc2da9bb3d31743fd8be5e719" type="badge" dynamic="true"]‘ Loki) will all be location-aware, smart mobile devices (like the iPhone or the Blackberry Bold) will make our local lives much easier. And all this local commerce will have an important social component, with the ability to “ping” your extended social graph for advice and feedback.

Local search will be the online equivalent of product placements in the movies. The way you easily monetize content in a relevant, contextual and subtle local way, by allowing your readers to find the place where they can buy a product or service they’ve read (heard, seen) about in an online magazine, newspaper, TV/video site, blog, social network, etc.).

Local search is the “Last Mile” of Web search and enabling companies like [praized subtype="small" pid="e0ed1f26245cb054822081ab116d8471" type="badge" dynamic="true"], [praized subtype="small" pid="c0208bbf51b03f3b31eb8972697cce1e" type="badge" dynamic="true"], FAST, [praized subtype="small" pid="1a4d80ac5edf63f4545420c318a607f315" type="badge" dynamic="true"], Localeze, Navteq and Praized Media (amongst others) are building the “pipes” to connect the online world to real world commerce.

We’re very excited today to announce pre-launch partnerships with three world-class organizations: Yellowbook, Yellow Pages Group and Localeze. More details in the press release:

PRAIZED MEDIA POWERS UP FOR LAUNCH, ANNOUNCING PARTNERSHIPS WITH YELLOWBOOK, YELLOW PAGES GROUP AND LOCALEZE

Local Search Platform Prepares for Public Beta Launch this Summer; Builds Service with Distribution Agreements and Millions of Local Business Listings

MONTREAL, Quebec – June 25, 2008Praized Media, Inc., the first distributed local search platform designed for social media, today announced strategic partnerships with leading local search providers, bringing the new company to the forefront of the local search industry. Praized has formed partnerships in the United States with business directory and data provider, Yellowbook, the nation’s largest independent publisher of print and online yellow pages, and Localeze, the largest online content manager serving local search engine publishers, businesses and ready-to-buy consumers. In Canada, Praized has partnered with Yellow Pages Group Co, Canada’s leading local commercial search provider. Praized is building a platform that will help social media publishers capture and organize local conversations occurring within their communities, and plans to launch its public beta this summer.

Yellowbook and Yellow Pages Group Turn to Praized to Reach Social Media Users
Praized has formed distribution agreements with Yellowbook, whose yellowbook.com network was recognized as the top gaining web property in the US by comScore in April 2008, and Yellow Pages Group Co., positioning the company for further success and leadership in the local search industry. Praized communities will have access to direct links to relevant local search results on yellowbook.com and YellowPages.ca websites, providing truly comprehensive search results and options for users.

“Yellowbook is focused on reaching more users in the social media landscape and now through Praized’s innovative platform, we will be able to instantly deliver targeted, relevant local business information to all types of Web communities that we have not been able to reach in the past,” said Patrick Marshall, chief new media officer at Yellowbook. “We are excited about this opportunity to reach these active online audiences and to be an integral part of the Praized platform from the get-go.”

Immediate Access to More Than 17 Million Local Business Listings
Praized has also formed data partnerships with Yellow Pages Group Co. in Canada and Localeze in the US, a company that delivers the largest, deepest, richest and most accurate set of local business content verified directly by merchants. These partnerships will provide Praized communities with access to a pre-loaded database of more than 17 million searchable, North American business listings.

“Our partnerships with Yellow Pages Group Co. and Localeze demonstrate the data-rich, robust local search platform that Praized will offer its multitude of communities across the Web,” said Harry Wakefield, chief executive officer at Praized Media. “By working with these comprehensive local data companies, Praized’s platform will provide relevant, quality content to its communities and create valuable local search user experiences.”

Praized will be announcing the public beta launch of its platform and first Praized communities this summer.

Source: Praized Media corporate Web site

About 10 days ago, iBegin released a new service called iBegin Source, “a comprehensive source of nationwide business data”. As I think this is a very innovative way of aggregating and licensing local business information, I contacted Ahmed Farooq to ask him a few questions.

Q: Can you tell the Praized blog readers about who you are and what you do?

A: I am the Director of Enthropia Inc, a web-dev firm located in Toronto. We have roughly 20 people working with us.

Q: What is iBegin Source?

A: iBegin Source is about raw business data. Buying business data is not cheap (and it is woefully inaccurate). We have made the data affordable and have coupled it with an open system (allowing for much easier updates), aiming for more accurate data.

Q: Where did the idea for iBegin Source come from?

A: It actually came as a defensive play. As we worked on iBegin City sites, we realized that we were (in essence) at the mercy of other data providers. We ended up creating our own dataset and even our own geocoder.

Q: What are the data sources for the iBegin database?

A: We seed with the usual suspects – telco records, federal/state agencies. We then supplement these with extra databases (restaurant databases, business license filings, registrations, change of addresses, other purchased databases, etc). In the first week we had roughly 50 user-submitted updates.

Q: iBegin Source could be quite disruptive. What has been the reaction so far of major local data providers like Acxiom, InfoUSA or Localeze?

A: They are watching us. Publicly they are shrugging us off, but once more and more updates come through our system, it will get interesting.

Q: I especially like the track back update mechanism, the idea that all iBegin Source partners will work together to improve the database in the long run (a la Wikipedia almost). We know how much of an issue that is in local search data. How many sites (using iBegin Source) do you think you’ll need to reach critical mass, i.e. constant improvements and best data source out there?

A: The trackback is just one element of our ‘update mechanism’. Based on a churn rate of 3 million, I believe we need 1 million updates a year (2500 a day) to blow the rest out of the water. This number is a combination of user-submissions and trackback updates.

Q: iBegin Source feels like an open source project: for example, you source content from users, the more people use it, the stronger it becomes and it’s free for non-commercial usage. Yet, it’s not structured like other open source project I know (I’m thinking of Music Brainz). Have you thought about setting up iBegin Source as a non-profit organization before launching it or in the future?

A: Data acquisition is expensive. Very expensive. iBegin Source would simply collapse on a non-profit model. The best we can do is what we have now – a free download for non-commercial usage, hopefully pushing enthusiasts and hobbyists to build interesting local sites. We also intend on award free commercial licenses to the most intriguing sites.

Q: Do you think you’ll have a hard time convincing local search partners to work with you given that you already operate a local search destination site?

A: Some people do get confused. I’m sure TrueLocal has that headache too. But what better demo of our data and what you can do with it by showing it off on our own sites? Mind you, we are only in one four cities (two of them Canadian), and in none of the major US markets.

Q: Right now, you offer data for the whole US market. What countries are next?

A: On the drawing board are Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Italy, and a few more. Estimated time of arrival is unknown at this point.

Thank you Ahmed!

About 10 days ago, iBegin released a new service called iBegin Source, “a comprehensive source of nationwide business data”. As I think this is a very innovative way of aggregating and licensing local business information, I contacted Ahmed Farooq to ask him a few questions.

Q: Can you tell the Praized blog readers about who you are and what you do?

A: I am the Director of Enthropia Inc, a web-dev firm located in Toronto. We have roughly 20 people working with us.

Q: What is iBegin Source?

A: iBegin Source is about raw business data. Buying business data is not cheap (and it is woefully inaccurate). We have made the data affordable and have coupled it with an open system (allowing for much easier updates), aiming for more accurate data.

Q: Where did the idea for iBegin Source come from?

A: It actually came as a defensive play. As we worked on iBegin City sites, we realized that we were (in essence) at the mercy of other data providers. We ended up creating our own dataset and even our own geocoder.

Q: What are the data sources for the iBegin database?

A: We seed with the usual suspects – telco records, federal/state agencies. We then supplement these with extra databases (restaurant databases, business license filings, registrations, change of addresses, other purchased databases, etc). In the first week we had roughly 50 user-submitted updates.

Q: iBegin Source could be quite disruptive. What has been the reaction so far of major local data providers like Acxiom, InfoUSA or Localeze?

A: They are watching us. Publicly they are shrugging us off, but once more and more updates come through our system, it will get interesting.

Q: I especially like the track back update mechanism, the idea that all iBegin Source partners will work together to improve the database in the long run (a la Wikipedia almost). We know how much of an issue that is in local search data. How many sites (using iBegin Source) do you think you’ll need to reach critical mass, i.e. constant improvements and best data source out there?

A: The trackback is just one element of our ‘update mechanism’. Based on a churn rate of 3 million, I believe we need 1 million updates a year (2500 a day) to blow the rest out of the water. This number is a combination of user-submissions and trackback updates.

Q: iBegin Source feels like an open source project: for example, you source content from users, the more people use it, the stronger it becomes and it’s free for non-commercial usage. Yet, it’s not structured like other open source project I know (I’m thinking of Music Brainz). Have you thought about setting up iBegin Source as a non-profit organization before launching it or in the future?

A: Data acquisition is expensive. Very expensive. iBegin Source would simply collapse on a non-profit model. The best we can do is what we have now – a free download for non-commercial usage, hopefully pushing enthusiasts and hobbyists to build interesting local sites. We also intend on award free commercial licenses to the most intriguing sites.

Q: Do you think you’ll have a hard time convincing local search partners to work with you given that you already operate a local search destination site?

A: Some people do get confused. I’m sure TrueLocal has that headache too. But what better demo of our data and what you can do with it by showing it off on our own sites? Mind you, we are only in one four cities (two of them Canadian), and in none of the major US markets.

Q: Right now, you offer data for the whole US market. What countries are next?

A: On the drawing board are Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Italy, and a few more. Estimated time of arrival is unknown at this point.

Thank you Ahmed!

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