AOL is making local a core part of their business model. And it's a worthy goal. Local searches grew 58% in 2008 and $103 billion will be spent on local advertising (both online and off) this year.
Still, the local search niche has a bit of an identity crisis. We've seen prospective progress such as CitySquares, the newly launched Bing, and the mobile search space. Now, AOL seeks to help consolidate the space with the acquisition of two local content providers: Patch and Going.
Patch is a local news and information provider while Going is centered more around events that locals can discover and share. Of course, AOL already owns one of the most popular online mapping resources in MapQuest.
The combination of search, local and mapping could be the perfect storm for AOL, if new CEO Tim Armstrong has his way.
"Local remains one of the most disaggregated experiences on the Web today -- there's a lot of information out there but simply no way for consumers to find it quickly and easily," said Tim Armstrong, AOL's Chairman and CEO. "It's a space that's prime for innovation and an area where AOL has a significant audience and a valuable mapping service in MapQuest."
Of course, Armstrong came to AOL from Google, a company known for innovation in search.
"Going forward, local will be a core area of focus and investment for AOL," said Armstrong. "The acquisitions of Patch and Going will help us build out our local network further with excellent local services that enable people to stay better informed about what's going on in their neighborhood."