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Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Local Ads in Street Views and Map Search (Day #3, Idea Week)

Google street views and MS Live Local are interesting platforms, but the content to make these map views meaningful and useful just isn't yet online. Searches degrade into a list of store fronts, with no indication of quality. It's 1997 all over again.

When I walk down the street, I pass lots of businesses. Those with store fronts such as cafes, pizza joints, and clothing stores are the kinds of businesses which I may be interested in while walking in the area, while others - mostly without storefronts, such as lawyer's or accountant's offices - are services which I probably wouldn't be interested in while on a casual stroll. These are the types of things in an area I'd first check out while online. However, it's not just dentists I'd like to read about online first. When I'm hungry I don't always want to take a stroll around town to find something to eat. I'd like to be able to go online and see what's available in my area before leaving the house.

Stores should plaster their Street View storefronts with ads and coupons.

Currently, google does have some coupon support. Look at this search for Pizza in Arlington.

Live Local is a bit better, bringing ads from Superpages.

But this whole system could be much better. Most small stores don't have the knowledge or resources to fully utilize the internet. For example, note that in the google link above, only Domino's Pizza has a coupon. Only the most corporate (and debatable worst) pizza knows enough to get online.

It isn't just about making money from ads or making more business. Right now, street views are interesting, but useless. There are large network effects where local search is worth much less without good information coverage. There is no data contained in a view like this.

That Street View is pointing straight at a Sushi restaurant, right after I did a search for "Sushi, SF CA", but there is no markup on the image at all. I should be able to see a picture menu, specials, and photos of the decor.

A company could be built whose sole purpose was to call these places or knock on their doors, explain to them the potential of advertising online, and help them get started.

One way to think of an idea is to imagine the future and build it now. In the future, you'll be able to take an image of a location using a cell-phone camera, and ask a service to send you the additional digital data on that location. As long as the local stores have something on the internet, GPS and image analysis can get that data and pass it to the customer.

The technical part is allowing for overlay of information on maps and street views. The harder part, that requires smart business and real employees, is going to these businesses and getting them to put the information online.


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