With the transformation of its €œnear me€ functionality into a more fully formed local-search application, Microsoft now joins Google, Yahoo!, AOL, A9/Amazon, Internet Yellow Pages, newspapers and, increasingly, local TV sites in the competition for local consumer usage and advertiser dollars.
In conducting a preliminary evaluation of MSN local search, it's clear that this is a down payment on something better in the future. Virtual Earth integration is coming in Q3 and should improve the product considerably.
Regardless, MSN has a way to go to compete with the best local/IYP products on the market. While the interface is clear and uncluttered, the listings data consist mainly of basic contact information and lack the depth and qualitative richness that others offer at the profile level, which is increasingly a competitive requirement.
I could say more, and I do in this week's Local Media Journal.