Citysearch, the local online guide which is part of IAC (NSDQ: IACI), is undergoing its first major relaunch in about a decade; for now it is in beta, here. Cognizant of tough competition from the likes of Yelp (see Yelp’s new usage numbers here) and other strong local sites, it has redone the entire site — adding all kinds of social features and granular local neighborhood level for search (from 140 local city guides to over 75,000 cities and neighborhoods), among other new functionalities. It is also launching a new mobile version, optimized for new handsets like iPhone and others, at m.citysearch.com.
The Facebook Connect platform is integrated through the site now, which means that users can log in using their Facebook ID and add reviews, so their activity would also show up in the social site’s newsfeed, and hence be shareable with friends.
I spoke to Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti about the relaunch, which he explained entailed redoing both the backend (CMS, ad serving, analytics etc) as well as the front-end user interface. Herratti joined Citysearch as president a year ago, and even though it did a redesign then, Herratti said it became too cluttered. This relaunch reflects the lessons learned since then about what things worked and what didn’t. The site has also tried to strike a balance between user-gen reviews, its own editorial reviews, and owner descriptions, something that Herratti thinks will help cut down the noise factor prevalent with other sites, and give equal voices to everyone in the process.
The company has also integrated local service provider reviews from InsiderPages, a business it bought early last year, into the nevamped Citysearch, even though IP will continue to remain a separate site as well. Citysearch handles all of IP’s sales, and Herratti told me the site has now become profitable with the lean operation. IAC sibling Evite, too, is in for a major relaunch sometime soon, so expect some more integration with that as well. On integration with other IAC brands like Ask and Match, he said they will be careful about trying to cram in everything in the site just because they can — something that IAC CEO Barry Diller has also soured on over the years.
As for the economy currently, with local small business and merchants probably pulling back on advertising, Herratti said that surprisingly October held up strong, but likely that November and December will be affected. Diller also echoed this in the company’s Q3 earnings call earlier this month, when he said that Citysearch and Match businesses haven’t yet seen any discernible impact. IAC doesn’t break down Citysearch’s revenues separately but Diller mentioned in the Q208 earnings call that it will do over $100 million revenue next year. Despite that (and this admirable effort with the relaunch), competition will surely keep Citysearch on its toes.