Telstra’s Sensis Youth Search Plans

The Australian writes about how Sensis plans to fight back the global majors by creating a youth-focused search engine brand:

Sensis general manager of search Greg Ellis says the new search brand, which will launch within two months, will target a primary audience of “net-savvy” 15 to 28-year-olds. It will co-exist with existing Sensis brands such as Yellow Pages and aims to take on Google and Yahoo by filling a gap in the market for search information that is locally relevant. “What we’re trying to do is to build a brand that we currently don’t have (to) appeal to a younger audience (of) 15 to 24-year-olds,” Ellis says.

Web and print publishers are keen to protect their classified advertising base from competition from Telstra’s Trading Post acquisition. Newspaper classifieds are worth an estimated $1.7 billion alone, representing more than half of all classified advertising.

While Telstra has stated its aim of moving into new classified areas including recruitment and real estate advertising, its main media competitors suggest Sensis first needs to protect its 400,000 mainly small-to-medium enterprise advertisers, the main source of its massive Yellow Pages revenue stream.

This revenue is under concerted attack from paid search advertising products from Google and Overture, which allow companies to sponsor key words on their search engines in order to generate online search results prioritised according to advertisers in each category. Overture’s service mixes relevant advertising and editorially generated links while Google’s paid links appear on one side of the screen. The benefits for advertisers are the low cost of entry and a known up-front cost per click, generating a measureable number of qualified leads.

“(Sensis’s) business is going out the door very fast,” one competitor says. “People are going more naturally to the internet for things they need to know.”

Effectively, Sensis’s directories will provide the local information for its new search service, the LookSmart acquisition will provide Australian web information, which Sensis will augment, and an alliance with Yahoo’s Inktomi will provide the global internet feed.

Hitwise vice-president of search Gavin Appel says the Sensis launch could boost the demand for localised search information.

“There is a gap in the (Australian) market,” Appel says. “Sensis has got all the features that are required for an effective local search product.”

He says despite the heritage of the White Pages and Yellow Pages brands, the new site will effectively be starting from scratch and will need to be heavily promoted in order to attract traffic.

Overture’s Mel Bohse says traffic is the main problem facing Sensis.

“The search model works on volume of search or distribution,” Bohse says. “The absolute key (for advertisers) is how much traffic I can provide them.”

This is a foretaste of the battle that will loom in all the markets between the search engines and the local yellow pages/classifieds media companies.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.