Citysearch, one of the more venerable names in local search, has relaunched its site with an updated look and other “new and improved” features, including video. Video is currently available for New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and has prominent placement at the top of the home page. It’s an ad unit for local businesses (mostly restaurants now) spending more than $800 per month.
The videos are produced by TurnHere, which has developed a network of thousands of local filmmakers in the U.S. and abroad. The videos are typically very effective, run about a minute and don’t “feel” like ads because of their style and local relevance. Here’s an example video and here are other videos from the New York Citysearch site. Here’s one for a plastic surgeon in San Francisco.
Right now there are no additional ads surrounding the local business ads. But this ClickZ article suggests that pre-roll and post-roll may be coming later. (I would be cautious about this if I were Citysearch.)
In addition to video and other graphical and layout changes on the site, Citysearch has improved search and general navigation. The site also now offers recommendations or personalized suggestions based on past search behavior. One of my criticisms of Citysearch in the recent past has been the general clutter and “over-monetization” on search results pages, most of which has been addressed in the new design.
Citysearch provides a substantial amount of the content for Ask City, also owned by IAC. One of the questions after the launch of Ask City had been: what is the relationship of the two brands? The changes and updates make a much stronger case for the independent existence of Citysearch and suggest how the two destinations might co-exist — their user experiences are more differentiated now (especially with the addition of video).
Citysearch, which recently acquired competitor InsiderPages, was one of the pioneers in local search and was around years before the current wave of local destination sites. Recently, however, Citysearch has come under pressure from sites like Yelp and others, which tapped into the new wave of social networking and deeper user-generated content. This needed updating will likely give new lift to Citysearch.
Postscript: I received clarification that the pre- and post-roll ads mentioned in the ClickZ piece aren’t contemplated for the TurnHere content but other editorial video content to roll out later this year on the site.
I also have some different information and address the question of video on local sites generally in a post on my personal blog Screenwerk.