The disintermediation of local media doesn’t stop. First, we got Realtors cutting into newspaper audiences (and advertising) by adding all the area listings to their Web sites. Phase Two is going to be the disintermediation of Yellow Pages, if you buy into what the thoughtful people at iBegin are working on. Using iBegin’s services, anyone can add Yellow Pages listings to his or her site. For free.
The 25-person Toronto-based tech company, which also produces four city guides, has developed a U.S. database that allows any Web site owner to tack on basic Yellow Pages. Databases for Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand are next. Use of the database is free, although a commercial license is being sold for $1,000 per state, or $40,000 for the entire U.S.
Founder Ahmed Farooq, a prolific commenter to local blogs, says iBegin is getting its data from a half-dozen large providers. It has also, a la TrueLocal, established 40-plus partnerships with small-scale vendors, such as franchises (Starbucks, gas stations, Wal-Mart) and vertical-specific categories (such as an ATM database).
Farooq argues that the data is just about as good as the data from InfoUSA, Acxiom and Localeze, and that iBegin’s format itself is better. The listings can be edited from the Web, and there is a trackback system so listings edited on one site can be automatically updated across the network. The system also “has the ability to say ‘’I’ve wrote about this business’ and then add a link to your business,” he says.
“The link that we point to explicitly links back to us. We now have the knowledge that Post X has to do with Business Y. And we already know that Business Y is in City Z, and can be found at GPS coordinates (A, B). This will be used for localizing blog content to specific areas.”
In the first three weeks, Farooq reports that iBegin has had more than 200 user edits, 300 user submissions and 50 user deletions. “As we grow in popularity, that number will only increase. These are businesses that have no way of updating their information with the other providers.”
In addition to iBegin Source, the company is set to launch additional city guides and a geocoder. “The city guides and Source will be complementary to each other,” says Farooq. “The plan is to choose the ’top 50’ cities in the U.S. We will then assign some blogs that permanently blog about that city (i.e., Torontoist.com for Toronto).
“On top of that, we will let people submit links they can either submit a general link for that city, or (as most do), if they have blogged about a certain place, they can just add their link to iBegin Source. Once an hour we will fetch the newest links from iBegin Source.” Farooq claims the blog network is already getting 4 million to 5 million page views per month.