SBC, BellSouth Expand Local-Search Plans

The publishers of phone directories buy in hopes of grabbing a bigger share of local-search traffic and advertising.

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Local search is drawing the interest of more than just the Googles and Yahoos of the world. Traditional directory publishers also are digging deeper into the market.

SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on Friday completed their purchase of Inc., an online directory, and formed a joint venture that they expect to become a leading provider of both online yellow pages and local search, the companies announced.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The companies said they expect to drive more than 50 million searches per month through The joint venture will be based in Pasadena, Calif., and will draw on capabilities from all three companies.

SBC and BellSouth said they will continue to run their separate online directory sites—SBCs and BellSouths

But the companies plan to leverage each others local content, advertising relationships and technology in running

"To be a leader in online yellow pages, you need two things—traffic and strong local advertising relationships," Dennis Payne, president and CEO of SBC Directory Operations, said in a statement. "This new venture gives us both."

/zimages/6/28571.gifWill local search meet expectations? Click here to read more.

News of the joint venture comes a week after BellSouth signed a deal to become the first reseller of Google Inc.s AdWords advertising. AdWords is the Mountain View, Calif., search companys pay-per-click ad program, which displays sponsored links and image ads alongside search results and content.

BellSouths plans to offer AdWords as part of its RealSearch search-engine marketing service.

SBC and BellSouth arent the only traditional directory publishers targeting local search. Verizon Information Services in March launched a pay-per-click sponsored link program as part of an overhaul of its online directory.

Local search continues to become a more important part of the overall Web search market. About three-fourths of online consumers perform local search, according to a survey of 3,887 Internet users released last week by The Kelsey Group and In all, 20 percent of searches are locally focused, the survey found.

Almost all of the major search engines have released refocused local offerings this year, most notably Google, Yahoo Inc. and Ask Jeeves Inc.

In other local-search news, Ask Jeeves earlier this week made its local-search service more prominent. The Emeryville, Calif., company added a local-search tab to its query box so users can directly seek geographic-specific search results.

Meanwhile, InterActiveCorps Citysearch plans to feature more local content on its city-specific search service. It formed an alliance earlier this week with online news-search service, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Citysearch, of Los Angeles, plans to add local news headlines from to 40 of its largest Citysearch local guides, while plans to feature Citysearch advertisers on its 32,500 local news pages, the companies announced.

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