Pssst! Have you heard?

Local search engines are organizing to create word-of-mouth recommendation systems for everyday products and services. Thanks to ClickZ News for pointing me to a few of these up-and-coming sites that could dovetail nicely with other local Web publishing effortss.

I was most impressed when I visited the Insider Pages and looked for a plumber in my zip code. Thankfully I didn’t need one but it was comforting to see several personal recommendations. Insider Pages allows (WordPress) bloggers to plug in a special set of codes that create local reviews in the Insider format, and ostensibly makes it easier for search engines to find the reference. (Not clear if there is an ad-revenue share for people who follow the recommendation.) Insider is a brainchild of Internet veteran Bill Gross.

ClickZ had this to say about the local search genre: “These new search start-ups share … (are) operating on the theory (that) consumer reviews are an indispensable element of local search, and such reviews are more credible when they come from friends, or friends-of-friends. The article (worth reading in its entirety) goes on to report that Insider Pages CEO Stuart MacFarlane says that with minimal marketing the company has signed up 1,600 members in the Los Angeles area who have written 3,000 reviews.

Other firms in this category include:
Judy’s Books, a Seattle startup led by Andy Sack and Chris DeVore;
— and Yelp!, a San Francisco site backed by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin. An October 2004 article from the United Kingdom says “Yelp! came together only in June, when Jeremy Stoppelman, a PayPal engineering veteran, who eventually became PayPal’s VP of Engineering and who’s now the Yelp! CEO, cottoned on to the idea of using our existing social networks to tackle the problem of trust.”

I’m sure I’m overlooking other similar sites but all I have time to do today is park these ideas in public. I will think more about local search and advertising later.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media