So Facebook and Twitter are getting all of the attention for providing APIs that let developers recreate their services on their own sites.  This strategy has in part led to Twitter’s growth explosion.  So giving away your data seems to work – and neither of these sites has a killer revenue model.

So why wouldn’t the big Yellow Pages co’s start giving away their data to smart developers who think they can build a better mousetrap – or perhaps a better way to find a pediatrician?  If this were the case I think 90% of the people I know in the local search/SEO world would spend the next 30 days launching vertical search sites.

I get why the data providers such as Localeze, InfoUSA, IBegin & Acxiom might not be interested in this – they sell their data to publishers, but for any company that has their own proprietary database and their own advertiser base, why wouldn’t this work?  All they have to do is insist that their ads ride along with the content.  Most of the big YP publishers already syndicate out their ads.  This typically requires contracts and negotiations and guarantees and lawyers.  Seems to me unleashing this stuff to the world (perhaps with some screening for quality) might be a bit easier.

By syndicating out their advertisers publishers are already admitting that you can’t survive on the destination site strategy alone.  So why not let others spend the time, money and energy innovating on top of your data to get you the traffic you wouldn’t normally get yourself?

Sooner or later the people sitting on top of all of this listing data are going to come to the conclusion that the data is worth more by giving it away then by keeping it to themselves.  When that happens get ready for an onslaught of really cool local search services.

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9 Response Comments

  • Rich Rosen, FastCall411  April 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Andrew – Nice post. Following a syndication model will also enable more performance-based pricing.

    I have posted a few similar thoughts recently on –

    Is Time Runing out for Newspapers and Yellowpages

    InfoUSA verifying local listings. Has this business model lost its legs? (a follow-up to Mike Blumenthals’s post)

  • Eric Fredine  April 28, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Right on. In addition to data, the Yellow Page publishers could support those entrepreneurs with a revenue stream. That is, the traffic they get from these new partners would let them reduce the amount of traffic they have to buy from Google. And by sharing a bit of that windfall they’d be ahead both strategically and economically.

    And what’s more, I’d argue that their real long term value lies in learning how consumers interact with listings. Proper use of this data lets you both serve the consumer better and provide more relevant advertising. And more usage data is better. So, making listings data available in a way that lets them learn more about how people are using it is a win-win.

    Bring it on.


  • Craig Mullins  April 29, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Sign me up when you find a place selling the data. I bet there are some places you can buy it now…


  • Andrew Shotland  April 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Another commenter who just got eaten by my spam filter mentioned that he knew that two big IYPs were in fact working on this strategy. I can also confirm based on a conversation at the YPA conference yesterday that that is the case.

    Apologies to those commenters who have been unjustly thrown into the spam filter. I had it set for “Total Beetch” but have now changed it to “Kinda Mean”.

  • Andre Marcelo-Tanner  September 29, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    not sure why IBegin is mentioned with the rest here, our data is available for free for noncommercial use…

  • Andrew Shotland  September 29, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    I guess I was talking about commercial use Andre…

  • Dallas Norton  January 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    The Yellow Pages/YellowBook/Verizon Yellow Pages are all scrambling to include high-cost PPC options for their advertisers, when developing an API would likely provide better exposure for less cost.

  • tony  May 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm


    Does anybody know if they rolled this out yet?

    I have been looking all day for the api

    Is there a white pages api around?