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MySpace: Next Generation Yellow Pages?

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MySpace: Next Generation Yellow Pages?

MySpace: Next Generation Yellow Pages?

There’s yet another in a series of almost daily articles on MySpace in the NY Times today. The piece reviews the history of the site and discusses ways that it might make money going forward. They’re talking behavioral and contextual targeting among other strategies.

I wrote an earlier post about small businesses (“SMEs”) starting to promote themselves for free on the site based on an article that appeared in The Dallas Morning News.

Now, this provocative set of statements appears in the Saul Hansell NY Times piece from today:

Fox officials wonder whether this sort of commerce, built on relationships [and profiles], can be extended to small businesses. A Ford dealership in, say, Indiana could create a profile, said Mark A. Jung, the chief operating officer of Fox Interactive. The profiles themselves, he said, would probably be free, but MySpace would sell enhancements to help businesses attract customers and complete transactions, Mr. Jung said.

Yet here is another place that executives at Fox and MySpace don’t see eye to eye. Mr. DeWolfe discounted the idea of people creating profile pages for small businesses. “If it was a really commercial profile — the gas station down the street — no one is going to sign up to be one of their friends,” he said. “There is nothing interesting about it.”

DeWolfe may well be wrong; there is a way to incorporate commercial, small business profiles — it’s already happening without solicitation or promotion — and not destroy the character of the community. (Me using the word “community” here is like calling Bombay, India a community.)

MySpace would have to be quite careful in executing however. But in the same way that paid-search has succeeded by delivering relevant ads at the time users are looking for them, MySpace could create a hybrid of eBay and Craigslist that would be quite interesting, unobtrusive to users and potentially quite successful for SMEs.

Sure, there’s reason to be skeptical that MySpace could pull this off. But few, a couple of years ago, would have accurately predicted where MySpace would be today. So who should be thinking about this and taking it seriously?

1. Yellow page publishers
2. Web hosting companies (why do I need a site if I have a search optimized MySpace profile?)
3. Newspapers
4. Search engines that want to host small business websites or are trying to acquire small business advertisers
5. Verticals that have small business advertisers
6. Direct marketing firms that deal with small businesses

The opportunity is to extend into MySpace as part of the larger distribution network, provided the right kind of targeting can be figured out. The threat is that businesses set up shop on MySpace and that’s sufficient in terms of marketing (though this would predominantly be only the very small businesses).

Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.

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