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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Amazon A9 Launches Visual Yellow Pages

Greg's blogging about some interesting local search news coming out of the Fast conference in Puerto Rico. Here's a good bit of info on Amazon's A9 local search press release.

"A9.com, the search subsidiary of e-commerce giant Amazon, has launched a Yellow Pages/local search directory that features millions of photo images of businesses and buildings in major U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others. (France's Pages Jaunes did something similar, though not as elaborate, a couple of years ago).

Search results will appear in A9.com. Clicking on results lands the users on a co-branded A9-Amazon page. A novel feature, “find it on the block,� allows users to scroll and take a virtual, visual tour of adjacent and nearby businesses, stores and so on. (This is not unlike IPIX virtual real estate tours.)

Amazon claims to have 20 million images of local businesses and it is inviting businesses to add or upload their own images for free. The photos were collected by driving the city blocks equipped with digital cameras, GPS technology and other hardware and software. A9/Amazon captured the images and matched them in context to create a visual representation of the street.

Amazon is also offering local businesses the ability to upload Yellow Pages content (e.g., hours, credit cards accepted, links to Web site, and so on, for free). This appears to be a serious effort to construct a competitive consumer directory, with the visual information leading the way as the differentiator from existing Internet Yellow Pages offerings.

Other features include:

  • Click-to-Call: reportedly provided by eStara

  • Customer reviews/ratings

  • Personalized recommendations (this probably relies on Amazon’s recommendations/collaborative filtering technology)

This is a very provocative and interesting angle on Internet Yellow Pages. However, A9, which has some unique features among search engines, has had very little traction with consumers, in part because Amazon has largely not promoted it. This is A9’s central challenge—creating awareness among consumers in an already fragmented interactive local marketplace.

But there's a paradox here. Amazon has a much bigger brand and traffic than A9. Yet the search engine is the “front door� to this new directory. One way to see this is as a bid for traffic to A9, with images/photos as the differentiator. But there's surely an advertiser play, which hasn't yet been announced (or perhaps fully thought through)."

Link via Greg.

By Jason Dowdell at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

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