AdAge examines the new Google-BellSouth deal to explain why the two partnered: Why the Google-BellSouth Yellow Pages Deal Happened.
Frankly, there's nothing that revealing in it. Yep, Google gets to tap into BellSouth's sales force and its contacts with local advertisers. BellSouth gets to tap into a growing awareness among local advertisers that they want to be online.
But this isn't revolutionary stuff, from what I can see. The cards have been on the tables for over a year that the two groups -- search engines and yellow pages -- would need to partner. The key question is whether those yellow pages, in partnering with the search engines, will be able to keep the advertisers with them directly over the long term.
Here's another thing to consider. What's to prevent Google or Yahoo down the line from doing a print version of their ads? Heck, they've got enough advertisers and brand recognition. Given the number of print yellow pages already out there, perhaps the Google Yellow Pages or the Yahoo Yellow Pages might do well as something new.
Finally, hype check. This isn't a first from what I've seen so far nor a "new era" as AdAge calls it. BellSouth already partnered with LookSmart last year to do a similar bundling deal.
What alarmed me about that deal was the emphasis on buying clicks. It suggests that the local merchants are being told, "Trust us -- people will see your ad, it's not costing much, and this is a low risk way to get started."
What's wrong with that? I guess in an age when search marketing has evolved toward good tracking, a focus on measuring conversions and so on, the idea of pitching just "clicks" seems a regressions. And from what I can see, the new Google-BellSouth deal may be more of the same. I'm guessing it will apparently feed into BellSouth's Real Search Engine Solutions offering, judging from the Google press release.
For more background on local search and the move by search engines into it, see my local search series from last year.