Excellent block of speakers this morning at the BIA/Kelsey ILM:10 conference with senior execs from both Google and Yahoo! speaking about their local strategy.
On the Google front, we first heard from Carter Maslan, Product Management Director, Local Search. He touched upon their mission (organize the world’s information geographically and make it universally accessible and useful), mentioned the new presentation of results in place pages released on October 15 and explained that local is not just one thing, it’s the various ways we lead our lives: critics, guides, tribes, events, news, products, offers, friends, credentials, and specialties.
The most insightful portion of the presentation was the Q&A session. There clearly seems to be pent up frustration between local resellers/local media publishers and Google and for the first time, we could hear very public grumbling. Probably caused by a series of Google moves including modifications to local search results pages, frustration with the AdWords reseller process and the tentative Groupon acquisition, I think the fragile coopetition equilibrium is threatened. “Elephant in the room” was mentioned by a few people. When Maslan was asked what was the role of directory publishers in the ecosystem, he said they could be the source of “credentialed businesses” as Google still has a lot of problems with listings spam. He mentioned that local ranking was based on three main dimensions: 1) the relevance of the place 2) the prominence of it 3) distance (depending on categories).
We then listened to Wesley Chan, Partner, Google Ventures. They are the investment arm for Google and are looking for great teams of entrepreneurs to back them financially and with intellectual capital. They are looking for financial returns, not for companies/projects that are strategic to Google. In fact, Chan clearly mentioned they are not grooming companies solely for Google acquisition and he hopes some of his investments will be acquired by Facebook and Microsoft! They love “local”, think it’s very early, that we will surprised many times in the next 10 years. They do all types of investments, from seed to mezzanine rounds. Chan spends 50%+ of his time on “local” opportunities. Again, more proof of the importance of local for Google.