The future of local is real time and mobile

Since the mid-1990s, entrepreneurs have been trying to tackle the local market. Many have failed. Others, like Yelp and Groupon, have been successful selling services to small businesses, but those services are of dubious value. (Disclosure: I have puts against Yelp and Groupon.)

Study: Groupon’s merchant quality is on the downslide

Have you had the feeling the quality of Groupon deals is going down? If so, you’re right. A report released this morning by Giorgos Zervas, a postdoctoral fellow of computer science at Yale University, shows that the average rating of a Groupon merchant before a deal runs is declining as Groupon matures. Zervas and other researchers had shown earlier that a business’s individual Yelp ratings dropped after running a Groupon. Yelp ratings by Groupon customers were, on average, 10% lower than those of their peers. (Disclosure: I met Zervas after the initial study and offered my theory that the average Yelp rating of merchants featured would be declining.)

Groupon is Google's $6 billion Facebook hedge

Why is Google willing to spend over $6 billion for Groupon? The local advertising market is massive — yellow pages ads still bring in more revenue than Google’s annual revenue. Local has been an extremely difficult market for online ad solutions to capture. Consider how a yoga studio in Cleveland can advertise. With Google AdWords, the yoga studio can target people searching for the keyword “yoga”, but this is an expensive, nationally bid-up keyword, and not a word the people search every day. Adsense provides a bit more context, and the ad could be placed in websites that talk about yoga, but there aren’t that many people looking at pages like that to click on the ad. Google Maps lets the yoga studio ad coupons to its location, but it has not had much uptake. The incredibly large local ad market has remained primarily elusive to Google, to the point where it considered purchasing Yelp for a large sum even though it did not have that much local ad revenue.