Today I had the chance to talk to Elaine Kunda, CEO of Toronto based local search site ZipLocal, which launched earlier this week in beta form. The site has grown out of a couple (now-defunct) local search sites including Zip411.net and redToronto.com.
The site is a combination of Citysearch and Yellow Pages, with a lot of neat functionality, and a product road map that could make it much more. There is a healthy dose of AJAX functionality throughout the search and mapping modules, which make for a good user experience.
From the mapping interface, there are lots of other neat AJAX based tools that allow you to do things like get directions and send business information to a cell phone, without leaving the map.
More important than what the site is now, is what it could become. Kunda is very bullish on video integration, user generated content and merchant generated content (akin to the new features in Google's Local Business Center). Ratings and reviews from users will also be integrated, and Kunda has a very clever plan (which I can't talk about yet), for how this content will be structured to aid in searchability and maximum utility for users.
The advertising model combines Google AdWords and premium listings, although it will slowly shift towards exclusivity for the latter. Taking a user-centric approach, Kunda is interested in pulling in as much information as possible from businesses, and she hasn't decided where the "line in the sand" will be between features and placement options for paid vs. unpaid listings.
The revenue model will likely involve featured placements (similar to Citysearch), multimedia upsells, and also some pay-per-click or pay-per-call. And the "line" between paid and unpaid features will be determined as the site gets closer to launching out of beta at an undisclosed point in the future.
For now Kunda is focused on the product road map and trying to generate content, and expand the site's geographic coverage throughout Candada.
“We have a database of 1.3 million business listings. In order for them to be found, they have to have keyword association," says Kunda. "We have this enhanced data for Toronto and Montreal and [unstructured] data for 45 additional cities. We will be expanding and narrowing in on content in each of the cities in the next year.”