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Panpa Bulletin : June 2006
40 | PANPA BULLETIN June 2006 BEST OF THE WEB rohan GoSStraY The Internet directory mar- ket is becoming more com- petitive and the incumbent Sensis is now facing challenges on all fronts. Many big companies looking to expand their revenue base are eyeing the directory's 'rivers of gold' and marshalling their resources to get a piece of the action. The battleground is the local Internet search directories, with the complete range of functional- ity designed to make finding infor- mation, connecting with a busi- ness and, of course, researching and buying a product or service, much easier. There are two online options for finding local information. Search directories and search engines. The popularity and usefulness of each source of information will dictate their share of success. Search directories are logically structuredandedited. Information is hierarchal and a quick search will often take you to the relevant listing. Search engines on the other hand index information automati- cally and it may require more effort to find the information you want. A report in The Australian has assessed the directory market as being worth in excess of $2 billion a year. This market is now being tack- led by search engine companies and publishing operations. Each operation is looking to leverage their strengths to gain a share of the lucrative market. The key to winning the most profitable share will ultimately turn on their functionality, their ability to sell advertising, and the traffic they can generate for their customers. The original directory is of course Yellow Pages Online (Sen- sis) generated from the success of the Yellow Pages directory, and now under attack from other online options. The new players are: Microsoft and the Nine MSN directory; the Yahoo local direc- tory; News Corporation with True Searching for the perfect market Rohan Gosstray looks at how internet directories can help the publishing industry. Local; Ansearch; and Google, who recently announced plans to enter the Australian local directory market. The directories are increasingly offering more sophisticated fea- tures. Google is the benchmark from a technology point of view with sophisticated mapping and features that allow users to send address details to mobile phones (in the American version). Google drags its directory information out of its massive search database. Other directories build on existing databases of Australian businesses and encourage businesses to add extra information to their listings. The standards set by Google are impressive. The mapping features are very detailed including options to use satellite maps, road maps, or a combination of the two, and advertisers can purchase icons on the map to promote their busi- ness. Sensis has icons on maps as well and the strength of a combi- nation of an extensive sales team and an established history. The different competing or- ganisations are utilising different capabilities. News, for instance, is leveraging its extensive sales oper- ation to up-sell and cross-sell list- ings into the printed publication and online. In contrast to News and Sensis, Google Australia has a staff of around 30 here in Australia. Its Australian advertising will be secured through Adwords auto- mation. The directories will simply add to their available inventory. Typically, an advertiser can choose from a range of options on a directory that provides them with different levels of exposure - from a free listing, ranging up to a web page, or a combination of extra links and listings that provide more detail for the viewer. Results achieved from the various levels of exposure selected can be meas- ured from the number of phone calls received from a directory, as- suming the client is tracking the origin of leads and inquiries. The client will also be able to gauge the traffic directed to their web site if they have one. The web site traffic generated from the di- rectory will be clear and recorded in the log files kept on the adver- tiser's web server. Measurement of response is going to be the acid test for companies trying to decide on the amount of the advertising dollar being spent with each serv- ice. The companies providing the Internet directories will also be able to report on the activity from the directory itself. As much as 60 per cent of website traffic for the compet- ing directories can come directly from the site address typed in to a browser or a search using the directory's name. Promotion of a directory in a newspaper will drive substantial traffic. The strength of local promotion to both the users of a directory and the potential advertisers is a big advantage for a newspaper or- ganisation. As the online market- place becomes inevitably busier, the ability to promote a directory and out promote your competi- tors will be critical. It is clear that Sensis will be working hard to keep its mar- ket share and defend it from the newcomers but as with most products, industries and serv- ices, the potential for increasing division and segmentation in the directory market is very high.