Study: Online Directory Usage By Local Market

If only judging by the amount of money Yahoo is spending to buy search listings provider Overture Services (nearly $1.9 billion,) we know that consumers are turning to online search in droves. The question is, with search engines and portals attracting a lion's share of the search traffic, are directory sites left in the dust?

According to comScore Media Metrix, it depends on geography. comScore Media Metrix on Wednesday announced a major expansion of Local Market Reporting - a system designed to measure Internet usage at the local market level - which revealed significant variation in activity at directory search sites. In many cases, this variation corresponded to relationships that specific yellow pages directories have with consumers through local telephone companies.

For example, Internet users in Austin, Houston and Green Bay are disproportionately likely to visit SmartPages.com, which is owned by SBC, a major provider of local telephone services in those markets. Through its SuperPages Network, Verizon reaches a disproportionately high percentage of Internet users in a number of the markets in which it operates, including Boston, Ft. Wayne, Seattle and Tampa.

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"Localized, interactive marketing continues to represent a large and fast-growing opportunity," says Peter Daboll, president of comScore Media Metrix. "To capitalize on this opportunity, marketers need to deeply understand consumer behavior within markets, across online resources such as search engines and yellow pages, real estate and automotive research sites, newspapers and countless other publications."

The new service also offers a look at newspaper sites, and further reveals significant differences in Internet usage patterns across local markets. For example, 18 percent of Washingtonians, always eager to keep up to date on happenings in their backyard and around the world, visited the Washington Post's Web site. The New York Times, also one of the most widely read newspapers in the country and a major rival of the Post, has a powerful reach in its home market (10.6 percent) as well as the total Internet population. In fact, in a number of major markets, The New York Times reaches nearly as many visitors as the local newspaper's site. In August, more than 450,000 Atlanta area residents, or 16.6 percent of local market Internet users, visited Atlanta Journal Constitution Sites.

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