Topix.net and Citysearch Partnership Points To Future Of Local Search
By Charlene Li
Topix.net, which aggregates local news, and Citysearch announced today a deal to 1) put news headlines from Topix.net on the home pages of 40 Citysearch guides; and 2) distribute pay-for-performance ads from Citysearch’s ad network of 32,500 advertisers on Topix.net’s local news pages. I had a chance to speak with Taek Kwon, EVP of Product and Technology at Citysearch and Mike Markson, VP of Business Affairs and Chris Tolles, VP of Sales and Marketing at Topix.net about the partnership. This deal means that Citysearch gains more distribution for its budding network of local advertisers while Topix.net receives a viable advertising source.
Rather than try to do everything themselves, each partner is showing how they will behave in the upcoming local search wars. Citysearch has a robust network of advertisers, and relies primarily on its inside sales force and increasingly on third party telesales to convince local small business to advertiser online. They’ll have to work hard – MediaPost reported that a recent Kelsey study found small businesses reluctant to confusing online advertising. Competition from yellow page providers like Verizon, Dex Media, and BellSouth mean that local businesses will be hearing a lot more about local search options over the next year. But all of these businesses won’t be hearing much from giants Yahoo! and Google as they concentrate on national advertisers buying geographically targeted ads around their stores and the top echelon of savvy small businesses that will tackle self-service ad buying.
Topix.net will focus on providing automated news – which the big boys like Google News and Yahoo! News have shown little interest in doing at the local level. Topix.net crafted deals to provide news headlines for Ask Jeeves, and info.com. Most interestingly, about 20% of Topix.net’s traffic comes from RSS feeds, up substantially over the past few months because of a partnership with Yahoo! – meaning that it will have to be experts at converting those feeds into actual readers who will see – and click on – ads on the site.
In the future, look for Citysearch and Topix.net to provide a local news and advertising solution for sites – for example, Citysearch also has an advertising deal with Ask Jeeves. The big three -- Google, Yahoo! and MSN -- will all develop their own local news and ad products. The rest -- like AOL and Ask Jeeves -- will piece together solutions from best of breed providers like Citysearch and Topix.net. Given this future, it would make a lot of sense for IAC to acquire Topix.net. Regardless of acquisition scenarios, deal making expertise will be essential as these two players and their bevy of players battle it out with Google, Yahoo!, yellow pages, and newspapers for local eyeballs and marketing dollars.