What it means: Google was rumored to be buying Yell all of last year but I did not think there was a strong possibility of that happening. I think that Microsoft rumor makes more sense as Microsoft has clearly invested massively in the local search space in the last 12 months through tech acquisitions (notably Fast and TellMe). This might be the way to try to corner the local search market vis-a-vis Google.
Went to bed yesterday reading this article from the Seattle Times. The paper reports on a speech Bill Gates gave to some of Microsoft’s top advertising customers. Other than the usual story of newspapers demise, there was an interesting tidbit about print directories.
The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend. “When you say something like ‘plumber’ the presentation you get will be far better than what you get in the Yellow Pages,” Gates said. “After all, we know your location and so we can cluster [results] around that. … Yellow Page usage amongst people in their, say below 50, will drop to near zero over the next five years.”
What it means: knowing how strong the print directory ecosystem is, I would be very surprised if it became completely irrelevant in the next five years. I’m also surprised Gates would come out so strongly and say their TellMe acquisition means they’re competing directly against directory publishers, especially at a time when people are starting to root for Microsoft to counter FOG. In any case, if you are in the directory space, you have to make sure you’re not solely dependent on one medium. Like the Kelsey Group used to say (and I’m paraphrasing), “don’t sell in the medium, sell in the database”. That means making sure your content can be accessed via different entry doors like print, online, voice, mobile, instant messenging Nintendo Wii, search engines, etc. As entry doors multiply, make sure you hedge your bets by being present in these various access points.