Nomade.fr [nomade.fr] - belonging to the Tiscali group - is one of the top directories in France, good for 30 Mill. pageviews from 900.000 unique visitors monthly.
Nomade was the first major directory in France to introduce paid submission. Initially it was a simple express inclusion, "Traitement Grande Vitesse", 99 Euro, started in September 2001. This was later complemented by the totally shameless "Offre sur Mesure".
Offre Sur-Mesure is:
Express inclusion, multiple listings per site, creation of catégories, Nomade will help in finding the best descriptions, titles and keywords ensuring top listings in the categories. Turnaround time is 48 hours, performance of the listings is monitored and documented. Prices are 1 URL: 99€ - 10 urls: 800€ - 20 urls: 1480€ - 30 urls: 2060€ More urls are possible.
This offer of course is not aimed at the small bsuiness site, let alone the informational site.
Hervé Simonin of Tiscali France told the Journal du Net [journaldunet.com] that this offer was mostly used by big agencies, like Netbooster, Réferencement.com or 1ère Position.
Those agencies signed contracts with Nomade - no details disclosed, but it's not hard to guess the agencies get discounts on listings when ordering in certain quantities.
Agencies make for 50% of all paid submissions at Nomade.
The company is planning to put up a scheme in which those agency players are given further added values, a "Club privileges".
Nomade has 120.000 sites indexed and gets roughly 2000 submissions per week. Simonin claims the majority of small sites go for the simple Express submit, though a free submit option still exits, while the majority of the bigger players goes for the Offre sur Mesure.
I found this a very interesting view on the paid directories.
While Nomade certainly takes the paid submission scheme to an extreme, it highlights trends in the whole directory scene. With Yahoo having set the signals almost all directories are following that path.
What Nomade does is giving their directory completely away. The original idea of directories was this: humans maintaining and collecting an index of useful quality sites to fulfill the needs of users/customers.
In a model like Nomade's, the user is completely left out of the equation. Instead the siteowners and the SEO agencies have become the customer, to whose needs the product "webdirectory" get's tailored.
The role of the editor, much dreaded instance at directories, has been completely turned over - from critical quality controller and knowledgable topic expert to small time SEO clerk.
The real question here is - can this business model work longterm? Or is it rather in the same shortsighted boom crash mode as in the days of the dot-com bubble?
Sure - for directories it's easy to see that normal users don't pay for better quality directly. Normal users fulfill one main purpose at directories: they are audience, target of advertisers.
Siteowners and promoters on the other hand are very keen on getting indexed favourably. They pay for getting in! Audience doesn't pay for viewing. Enter paid submssions, enter agency deals, enter yellow pages.
So what's in a directory listing for the siteowner? Two things - direct traffic from the directory and better listings in search engines.
How long are search engines like Google willing to accept a listing from a totally commercial directory as important link? When will the first paid directory be blacklisted as linkfarms, as a way of artificially boosting linkpop?
And how long will it take until such directories, with multiple listings from a few big companies dominating multiple categories, will suffer from massive loss of audience?
Huge directories as Yahoo are known to reject paid submissions. But do we know who really is in charge of accepting submissions at large directories?
Nomade has not yet met their goal of making 10% of their revenue from paid submissions.
Even if they achive this 10% - is it worth it? Is this a viable longterm business model?
In the very interesting thread on the future of UK directories [webmasterworld.com] the possibilities of starting new specialised directories are discussed. I think the chances are good. As the big boys abandon quality and the interests of the audience there should be opportunities for small guys focusing on fullfilling users needs for quality.