Yellow Pages

Kelsey: 38% of Mobile Users in US Accessing Internet

To promote its upcoming conference, The Kelsey Group put out findings from a new consumer survey on mobile usage. The survey was based on an online survey of 512 US mobile phone owners this October. The information is directionally accurate and the data are interesting, but I would argue with particular data points.

Here are some of the publicly released findings:

  • Downloaded or looked at maps or directions: 17.6 percent, up from 10.8 percent in 2007
  • Searched the Internet for products or services in their local area: 15.6 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2007
  • Searched the Internet for products or services outside their local area: 14.3 percent, up from 6.4 percent in 2007
  • Obtained information about movies or other entertainment: 13.7 percent, up from 8.2 percent in 2007
  • Connected with a social network, such as MySpace or Facebook: 9.6 percent, up from 3.4 percent in 2007

The Princeton-based firm also reported, "the percentage of mobile users who access the Internet from their mobile devices increased from 32.4 percent in 2007 to 38.9 percent in 2008, an annual growth rate of 20 percent."

We previously found (as did TMP Directional) using larger sample sizes that 16% had conducted local searches using mobile devices. This figure appears generally in agreement with the Kelsey data.

However, in my view, the mobile Internet access numbers and social networking numbers are too high to be representative of the mobile population as a whole. It's probably because of an overrepresentation of smartphones in the sample.

On this point the Kelsey data show that about 19% of survey respondents have a smartphone. It's closer to 13% (or so) for the general mobile user population. This discrepancy probably accounts for why some of the numbers in the survey are high.

In a previous online study with about 800 respondents we found that 29% had accessed the mobile Internet, and these LMS proprietary numbers were higher than Nielsen and comScore's numbers. (More important than the question of whether people had ever accessed the mobile Internet is the question of frequency and engagement.) I would argue in general that the trajectory of growth Kelsey shows from 2007 to 2008 is correct, in terms of mobile Internet access, but the figure (38.9%) is too high in terms of the general mobile user population in the US.

We all have seen that smarphones dramatically affect mobile Internet access and mobile search activity. From the recent TMP data:

 Mobile search usage -- comscore August 2008

In addition the 9.6% social networking number in the Kelsey findings is also directionally correct but too high regarding the mobile user population more generally. We found, as did comScore, that the number is closer to 6%. 

Clearly mobile Internet access is gaining rapidly and future gains are tied largely to smartphone adoption. Perhaps the most interesting data point released in the Kelsey findings is that just over 49% (49.2%) "plan to purchase an advanced mobile device" (presumably a smartphone) "in the next two years."

Despite these intentions, price will determine how many of these aspirants actually purchase smartphones (see this post). But, as we've argued many times in the past, are where the market is heading.

The Kelsey Group based much of its mobile revenues forecast on the expectation of growth for ad-supported free DA. Logically this made lots of sense and I also was quite bullish on this segment at one time. But it simply hasn't materialized as a major driver of call volumes (or revenues accordingly) at this point. And as more people adopt smartphones -- and go direct to the Intermet from mobile -- the ad revenues contribution we can expect from the "Free DA" segment is propotionately smaller.

iPhone App in Microsoft/Tellme's Future?

The dearth of speech-enabled applications in the iPhone App Store is self-evident. In a truly "open" process for mobile phone applications, a significant percentage would involve speech recognition or text to speech. But the iPhone is barely a phone. It is a mobile, communicating computer with an elegant user interface that presents a multiplicity of popular applications in response to touch (or MultiTouch). Nuance and Dial Directions have both demonstrated applications for the iPhone and now, according to a report in YahooNews, Tellme (now a subsidiary of Microsoft) is moving closer to introducing its own iPhone application.

Tellme's voice portal and Tellme's enhanced directory assistance are both available from any telephone, through 1-800-555-TELL and 1-800-CALL-411, respectively. To reach Tellme's enhanced local search on an iPhone users need only press the Tellme entry in the iPhone "Contact" list. One press, one utterance, and the job is done. That may explain Apple's reticence to add speech enabled services to the virtual shelves in the App Store.

Still, voice services are still destined to weigh heavily in the mix of smartphone and feature phone applications. As an alternative to traditional keypads and QWERTY keyboards, push-to-talk, spoken input is a marked improvement, especially in situations that are mandated to be hands-free (most commonly, while driving). Adoption of speech input has proven to be "success-driven", meaning that subscribers who have successfully used their voice to input commands and text are more likely to try again. In addition to Tellme, Nuance and Dial Directions, V-Enable has created a set of local search services that a number of wireless subscribers are using their voice to invoke.

Empirical evidence is that they use the mode of communications that makes the most sense "in context". Thus far, the iPhone "context" remains devoid of push-to-talk and speech-enabled applications.

Vindigo's Closure Marks End of an Era

Those of us who remember using the first “connected Palm” device (the Palm V) have a little something to mourn as we learned that For-Side.com has shut down operations at Vindigo. A report out of New York indicated that more than 30 employees in New York City are immediately affected, but Jason DeVitt (who founded Vindigo in 1999) notes in his blog that he recognized that For-Side.com had placed his company on the wrong track when he made his exit back in 2005. At the time, he had built Vindigo to a $10 million top line while sister company Zingy had grown its revenues to $50 million.

The vision was to merge Zingy and Vindigo, grow it to a six-digit top line and take the company public, riding on the wave of popularity for local and personalized mobile content. Indeed, even today visitors to the Vindigo Web site will find it offering subscribers wireless access to real-time restaurant & movie listings (including reviews and ratings from trusted content providers), shopping and nightlife listings, door-to-door directions and maps and listings of locations for “essentials” like police stations, pharmacies, ATMs and public restrooms.

Yet the ensuing four years witnessed a revolving door in the executive suite and general failure to capitalize on its “first mover” advantage while new participants entered the marketplace with mobile flavors of search engine resiults, Yellow Pages, directory listings, coupons and the like.

But all might not be lost. A couple of comments on Jason DeVitt’s blog reflect continued interest in the Vindigo brand (as an asset for acquisition) as well as the mix of services that Vindigo had aggregated. With iPhone’s AppStore and Android’s “open” application development process constantly evolving, it would not be surprising to see Vindigo or a Vindigo clone re-appear for the iPhone, G1 or one of its peers.

Yell Mobile Maps Gains LBS Award

UK directory publisher Yell's mobile maps application has won an award in London for ‘Best Location-Based Service’ at the Mobile Search Awards on Sept 16, 2008.

The application, which is quite a bit richer than the company's basic WAP search tool, is built by Local Matters' Copenhagen-based unit mobilePeople

 

Dial Directions First to Launch Voice for the iPhone

Beating out a host of other, larger companies working on speech for the iPhone, startup Dial Directions has introduced "Say Where," a speech application for local business search, reviews and maps & directions. Using the Safari browser it can tap into sites like MapQuest, Google Maps, YellowPages.com, Yelp and so on.

Arguably the greatest weakness of the iPhone is the keyboard, which takes considerable "getting used to." Say Where by-passes the keyboard entirely. Here's a video demo of the application in action.

Dial Directions began as a way to speak locations into any handset and get SMS based directions back. However what the company has really built is an impressive speech platform that transcends maps & directions. That's what the new Say Where application showcases -- the broader speech capability of the company's platform. 

The application officially launches today at the DEMO conference in San Diego, California. 

 

Yell Integrating Mobile Services

Late last week UK publisher Yell introduced a new offering to make its mobile services more "holistic":

Yell, the directories company, is launching a new mobile internet service in a bid to join together its 118 24 7 directory and Yell.com mobile offering . . .

Callers will receive an SMS when calling the directory service from a mobile phone. A hyperlink on the text will take the consumer to a "landing page" that gives company content in text.

It will include information a 118 call handler would give to a consumer, such as prices, e-mail addresses and web addresses of businesses.

It will also provide maps and directions to find the advertiser - a service that Yell claims is the first of its kind.

The top "use case" for mobile 411 is someone in the car on his/her way somewhere seeking directions, inventory information and/or hours of operation.

This "multi-modal" model is also what most companies will need to adopt -- if they haven't already -- to optimize mobile offerings and make them accessible and more effective for users who are arrayed across a broad range of handsets.

Idearc Extends 'HelloMetro' Distribution to Mobile

Idearc's Superpages currently has a distribution relationship with domain-based cityguide and local network "Hello Metro," which offers yellow pages and other listings under "HelloDomain" sites: e.g., HelloEugene.com.

HelloMetro

That relationship has now been extended to the ".mobi" version of the sites:

HelloMetro.mobil

HelloMetro claims 2.7 million unique users across its network. However, the mobile version of the sites probably have scant usage at this point.

WhitePages.com: From Directory to ‘Connectory’

At a WhitePages.com-sponsored “blogger day” last week, I and LMS colleague Pete Headrick, had a chance to hear about where the company’s been and where it’s going: interesting places. It was preceded by a Mike Arrington-moderated discussion about the iPhone and several iPhone apps (Urbanspoon, Jott, and WhitePages). The demos and initial discussion were interesting but the conversation ultimately devolved into an iPhone vs. Android debate. The Seattle PI covered it here.

WhitePages.com is a terrifically successful business, selling (mostly display) advertising against its huge traffic and network — the company has relationships with most U.S. yellow pages publishers and a range of others, including MSN. It also owns a range of brands/destinations in the U.S. and Canada, including Address.com, PhoneNumber.com and 411.com.

The company also claims roughly 40 million monthly uniques. The most recent comScore “Top 50″ U.S. sites shows WhitePages.com at 42. But comScore likely counts traffic to WhitePages lookups on partner sites as belonging to those partners (e.g., Superpages). WhitePages’ database of people listings (collected through various methodologies) now is roughly 180 million according to the company. WhitePages says this is orders of magnitude larger than anyone else.

If my notes are correct, CEO Alex Algard said the site made something approaching $70 million in 2007. It’s a very profitable but not too sexy businesses. Part of the reason for the blogger day was to announce the company’s new direction. Consistent with that new direction WhitePages recently bought voice platform Snapvine.

What was most interesting to me, beyond the impressive metrics was this conceptual shift from directory to what the company is calling a “connectory.” What does that mean? It means a medium or hub for direct communications between people. As opposed to simply looking up names — the company cited a range of data on usage frequency — soon users will be able to leave voicemail messages for one another or send text messages to registered users’ cellphones, all via the site.

The rest of this post is on Screenwerk.

Toward a More Useful Twitter

SEO expert Andrew Shotland pointed out a new yellow pages service, Twellow, whose content is built on Twitter. The execution, from my cursory examination, isn't great but the concept is right.

Twellow

I wrote about something very similar after the Twitter acquisition of Summize. The concept is mining the Twitter data for local recommendations. The problem is properly sufacing (and archiving) the right information and getting rid of the noise. That's no small task.

We wrote about the model a long time ago in the context of Mosio.

Jingle Achieves 'Per Call Profitability'

Some in the industry thought the day would never come. However, Jingle has announced that 1-800-Free-411 has achieved "per call profitability":

Since the companys launch in September 2005, Jingle has become the countrys largest provider of free directory assistance and has amassed a base of more than 130,000 paying advertisers. Jingles advertisers include hundreds of major household names like McDonalds, WalMart, Ford and Radio Shack as well as tens of thousands of small independent retailers in virtually every Yellow Pages category and local market. In the quarter ahead, Jingle expects to pass two other key milestones -- answering its 500 millionth phone call and serving over 1 billion in call advertisements.

There's also be an executive shake up:

Jingle also announced today the relocation of their corporate headquarters from Menlo Park, Calif. to Bedford, Mass. In conjunction with this relocation, the company is also announcing the promotion of two key executives. John Roswech, formerly SVP of Sales and Business Development, will now be joining the Board of Directors and will serve as the companys President. Scott Kliger, the companys founder, will now assume the CEO role. George Garrick, Jingles former CEO remains on Jingles Board as a key strategic advisor to the company.

This milestone is significant for the company as it faces intensifying competition from a range of well-heeled advertisers such as Google, AT&T and Verizon among others. Free DA also faces competition from the mobile Internet itself as it becomes more mainstream over time.

Jingle not long ago did a deal with Dial Directions to add text-based directions to any listing provided to users. It remains a differentiated feature among free DA providers.

Local Matters and Apptus Bolster Canoe411 for Qubecor MediaPages

In a joint press release from Denver, CO, and Lund Sweden, IYP and enhanced 411 aficionado Local Matters and e-Commerce specialist Apptus announced that they have worked together to bring new content and capabilities to www.Canoe411.ca, an Internet Yellow Pages and local search engine operated by Quebecor MediaPages.

A "beta" version of the site has been operating since April. As it moves out of beta status, it becomes the official online directory for the Canoe.ca network, which reportedly attracts 8.8 million unique visitors each month. The combination of technologies from Local Matters and Apptus is to provide mechanisms for local merchants to target advertising to local buyers. MediaPages published printed directories in 20 or so smaller communities in Canada, but will grow its business by expanding into Montreal and Quebec City. Integration with Canoe411.ca will give the MediaPages sales force more opportunities to sell products and services that rely on targeted search-based marketing through the Canoe411 Web site.

Jingle Goes Nationwide with Dial Directions

Jingle Networks' 800-Free-411 for now is the "free DA" market leader. But it has been joined by a broad range of competitors:

  • 1-800-GOOG411 (Google)
  • 1-800-Call-411 (MSFT, Tellme powered)
  • 1-800-Yellowpages (AT&T)
  • 1-800-2ChaCha (”mobile answers”)
  • 1-800-The-Info (Verizon)
  • 1-800-555-Tell (Tellme)
  • 1-800-555-5555 (potentially)

This also doesn't include the voice-powered (or operator-assisted) applications:

  • Yahoo’s oneSearch with Vlingo
  • MSFT Live Search with voice
  • The Tellme client (a new version launches today for the Blackberry)
  • V-Enable’s FreeMobile411

There's also the mobile Internet itself, which competes with DA in some cases. In the future, mobile social networks may also address some of the queries that might have gone to DA (e.g., category searches). Right now the latter is quite speculative however.

Against that backdrop Jingle needs to continue to develop, market and differentiate its service if it hopes to stay ahead of this increasing competition. One way it has sought to do that is by offering Dial Directions service, which as of today is now available nationally: any location to any other location (by address or intersection).

To test it, I called Free-411 from both my landline and from a mobile phone. The service distinguished between them accordingly and didn't offer the option to get directions from the landline (because there's no ability to receive a text). But it did when I called from my wireless phone.

Dial Directions' service also has the option to skip getting to the highway, which is great. And overall it's nicely integrated into the Free-411 service and call flow.

Maps & directions are a high demand, high-use category in mobile generally and for DA in particular. It represents one of the motivating reasons people seek local telephone numbers from DA (to then get directions).

Maps and directions in DA

The addition of the Dial Directions service to Free-411, beyond providing more utility, also provides more ad inventory at the bottom of various texts that are returned with the directions information.

Dial Directions has a range of interesting additional capabilities that are so far barely exposed to the marketplace. Its speech-enabled events directions is one example. Its "Meet Me" social networking/invitations capability is another. And there's more in the pipeline.

800-555-5555 Launches in Legal Vertical

The Voice Internet has built a broad-based platform that has a range of intriguing capabilities -- so many that it may be confusing to people. Accordingly, the company is initially narrowing to focus on a single, if ambitious offering: 800-555-5555.

It aims to be a comprehensive starting point for all voice search. The first "product" rollout is "Just Say Legal," a PPCall ad network for attorneys. The idea here -- and this is a template for other content categories -- is that users call the "800 all fives" number and say the keyword "legal," which leads them into the directory.

The company can use this same approach to build out innumerable verticals. It can also connect to any third-party service, such as Goog411 or 800 Free 411. Accordingly it could become a kind of voice "meta search" or true "voice portal," but on a scale conceptually much larger than Tellme's 800-555-Tell service. The "800 all fives" brand and underlying technology offers that opportunity.

The challenge of generating revenue can't be underestimated but the first offering Just Say Legal benefits from a promotional and investor relationship with syndicated radio show host Bill Handel.

RHD's DexKnows.com Takes Local Search National

R.H. Donnelley, after announcing that it offers the #1 local online search site in its print Yellow Pages in the markets, is taking DexKnows.com national. DexKnows.com is a destination site, built on Local Matters' core technology. The site enhancements support reviews, comparison shopping, geographic awareness (like search by landmark), video clips and several personalization features (like stored searches and shopping itineraries).

The service was introduced in RHD's Western and Midwestern Markets. This represents expansion that portends the unification of all its online local search under the DexKnows.com brand by the end of 2008.

Jingle Raises More Capital

According to this post (I couldn't find the actual filing), Jingle Networks has raised an additional $13 million:

Jingle Networks Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif. based operator of a national consumer telephone directory assistance service, has raised nearly $13 million in Series C-1 funding, according to a regulatory filing. Listed shareholders include Goldman Sachs, IDG Ventures Boston, Liberty Associated Partners and First Round Capital. The company had closed on a $30 million Series C round last October, with the aforementioned investors, plus Comcast Interactive Capital, Hearst Corp. and Lead Dog Ventures.

Through three financing rounds, Jingle has now raised more than $70 million.

Retail Queries Popular on Mobile 411

Mobile search and DA provider V-Enable released data gathered from carrier partners between 11/23 and 12/7 about mobile 411 search activity in major U.S. metro areas (LA, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and Dallas). Here are the "top retail searches" according to the company:

  1. Wal-Mart
  2. Target
  3. Game Stop
  4. Best Buy
  5. Walgreens
  6. Publix
  7. AutoZone
  8. KMart
  9. Toys R Us
  10. Blockbuster Video
  11. CVS
  12. Circuit City
  13. Home Depot
  14. Radio Shack
  15. Sears

What it shows in part is the power of these brands and the opportunity to bridge between the Internet and physical stores, using mobile, in terms of promotions and product inventory information.

CallGenie in DA 'Category Search' Deal with AT&T

Here's the news from the release that went out this a.m.:

CallGenie, a leading provider of localized, voice-enabled search solutions to Yellow Pages publishers, directory assistance providers and wireless carriers, today announced that it has entered into an agreement with AT&T, in which Call Genie will provide its EVD (Enhanced Voice Directory) business category search product and related services to support the AT&T business category search feature. This feature will give users of AT&T directory assistance the opportunity to search by type of business in addition to searching by business name in the 9 Southeastern states.

CallGenie recently acquired mobile content provider and ad exchange PhoneSpots, as well as EU-based DA services provider BTSLogic.

1-800-YellowPages Goes National

AT&T's 1-800-YellowPages ad-supported directory assistance service has now "gone national." Here's the press release. Ad support is provided by Apptera.

"Yellow pages" benefits from associated brand strength, with "1-800-YellowPages" scoring pretty well in several user surveys. In other words, more people are acknowledging and recognizing the service than we believe have actually used it. That speaks to the strength of the yellow pages brand, which AT&T now owns effectively.

In our forthcoming DA survey for example, it scored slightly better than GOOG411 with users, even though GOOG411 has been national for some time, while 800-YellowPages was only in selected markets until now. In the recent comScore-Jingle survey work it also did well.

YellowPages.com has a WAP site and YP411 SMS service, in addition to the voice search product.

YellowPages.com competes with GOOG411, Microsoft's 1-800-Call-411, Microsoft's Tellme (800-555-Tell) and the segment leader 800-Free-411.

YellowPages.com Beefs Up Sales Force

There were a bunch of things I couldn't get to yesterday. One of those was YellowPages.com's announcement:

Dynamic growth and a rising demand for more local-search advertising options have prompted YELLOWPAGES.COM a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) , to roll out an unprecedented coast-to-coast expansion of sales offices, the company announced today.

New YELLOWPAGES.COM sales offices have opened, or are scheduled to open, during the first half of the year in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Minneapolis, Virginia Beach and Richmond, Va.; Idaho, Iowa and New Mexico, while offices in Phoenix and Salt Lake City are planned for later in 2007. The new locations, which will serve as regional offices for hundreds of new sales professionals working with businesses to reach local consumers, join the list of current YELLOWPAGES.COM field offices in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Pa.; Henderson/Las Vegas, Nev.; and Charlotte, N.C.

Kate Kaye at ClickZ covers the news and provides a bit more context. As she mentions in the article, IAC's Citysearch has recently opened an Atlanta call center and is making a big sales push.

If I had to boil down success in "the local Internet" to two things they would be: the strength of the destination brand (user experience is a significant factor) and the efficacy of the sales channel(s) or partners. Using those criteria, YellowPages.com is in a strong position. While the user experience is not as strong as it certainly could be, YellowPages.com's existing assets and multi-platform capabilities (including wireless, free directory assistance) make it a powerful competitor.

What I would do if I were YellowPages.com is improve usability and overhaul the search results pages and interface (not the front door) and spend a boatload of money on consumer marketing, which they are, to establish the brand as a unified way into local content: print, Internet, mobile, voice.