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U.K. directory publisher Yell has announced a new partnership that will pre-install its mobile application on phones sold in the U.K. by handset manufacturer 3. It will appear as an icon link in the applications folder of compatible phones put out by 3.

The application will include the standard feature set of Yell’s mobile products, including the ability to look up 2.3 million U.K. businesses, save and share listings with contacts, and map listings. For the latter, 3 customers can also download Yell’s mobile maps application, which was built by mobilePeople.

Building on the strength of Yell’s brand in the U.K., this will further solidify its positioning for mobile searches by placing an icon at users’ fingertips. Scale-wise, this potentially reaches 3’s 3 million active customers in the U.K.

Stepping back, a great deal of the sizable mobile local search opportunity will be realized by directory publishers. The mobile use case is very conducive to local search, and directory publishers have lots of local content and existing advertiser relationships.

The challenge with local listings, however, is that there are inventory constraints: The relatively low volume of mobile searches happening today is spread even thinner when you consider all the specific categories and locales that are possible (i.e., “electrician, Truckee Ca”). There are only so many searches happening in specific categories.

This is less of an issue in Europe than in the U.S. because a greater percentage of the population is concentrated in and around cities. But it’s still a challenge. The name of the game for directory publishers is therefore to build scale.

This will happen through YP-branded mobile search products like Yell for Mobile and via partnerships to distribute listings throughout the many local search apps that are being built on open platforms like the iPhone and Android.

Yell’s announcement this week falls into the former bucket, but we should see more deals by Yellow Pages publishers to both gain traction for their own search products and gain distribution through partners.

In the U.S., for example, (AT&T Interactive) has done both by launching a popular iPhone app (YPmobile) and feeding its listings into other popular apps such as uLocate’s Where application. Look for lots more activity around mobile products from Yellow Pages publishers in the coming months.


Related: A mobile local search track at TKG’s upcoming Marketplaces conference will feature David Yoo, AT&T Interactive senior vice president and chief product officer; Walt Doyle, uLocate president and CEO; and Nick Gee, mobilePeople director product management.

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