Yahoo, AOL Execs Talk Local

Astif Rafiq of YahooAt The Kelsey Group conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Atif Rafiq, who heads Yahoo Local in the U.S., and Chris Spanos, GM of AOL Local & Search, provided some thoughts on the future of local services as new leadership takes the helm at their respective companies.

Portals AOL and Yahoo have local strategies that focus on specific industry segments to increase traffic, loyalty and advertising opportunities. AOL has MapQuest, City Guide, AOL Autos, as well as careers, travel, and events sites. Yahoo took a different approach, focusing on social network services supported by its local division.

"Yahoo plans to leverage existing properties to build out local search," Rafiq told Online Media Daily.

Time Warner's AOL division last week announced the appointment of former Google executive Tim Armstrong as chairman and CEO. Yahoo named Carol Bartz CEO and a member of the board of directors in January.

"It's our understanding that Tim is a big fan of local, so we're pretty excited about it," Spanos said. "We expect to have a focus on local and have more stories to tell about our success and partnerships."

Yahoo on Monday released three search marketing tools geared toward targeting consumers. The tools--demographic targeting, ad scheduling, and enhanced ZIP-level geo-targeting--aim to give marketers more control of sponsored search campaigns.

Rafiq didn't have specific plans to share about future local online services, but said there's a lot of excitement about Bartz leading Yahoo. "The local opportunity remains one we haven't tapped into as much as we can," he said. "From what we hear at the highest level, they also share that opinion. We expect a commitment to local could play more broadly."

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