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Is there a future for paid directories?
A case study
heini

WebmasterWorld Senior Member heini us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 425 posted 10:54 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

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.

 

JamJar

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 425 posted 8:51 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just to join you on that point:

The number of users willlng to pay for search, even for specialised search is still not high enough to support turning the advertising model on its head. Does anyone have any figures on this? How long do we think it will be (or will it ever be) large enough?

The cost to support human edited directory is too high compared to the number of sites that make paid submissions. Is the best way therefore not to ask the consumer to do that job? (going down the community road, I know, but helps cost and removes bias)

Whenever you have paid submissions whether it be paid for spidering or directory spidering, the big boys will always win. Is this not the case with search engines and SEO (or money with cpc!!) though? Only a select few have the tacit knowledge to get to the top, the rest simmer unheard of.

And just to make my favourite point: look how much the revenue model scene has changed over the last three years - none ot us *really* know a) what users will want in two years and b) what revenue model is sustainable for that
in even 5 years time (despite the fact that the guys at Jupiter at al are paid gazzillions to try and predict for us!).

skibum

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 425 posted 12:42 am on Apr 10, 2002 (gmt 0)

As the results of most search and all directory sites in the US (slowly spreading around the world) are based almost entirely on the size of the ad budget, ODP may become the single most important resource on the web world wide.

It would seem the future for paid directories is bright for both the directories themselves and the advertisers at least for the next year or two. It will probably take at least that long to begin to see if the paid directory model is sustainable. Maybe Joe Surfer will care, maybe not.

If Google continues its ways, with the current busienss model, providing free indexing and unbiased search results, it may definately be time to start identifying the large paid directories as link farms and elminating them from any PR calculations. As the LookSmarts of the world are beginning to resemble Overture the time has come to take them out of any relevancy calclation. THe YAHOO!'s may be next. It does seem that Google is becoming more and more closely aligned with ODP, which at this point seems to be a very good thing.

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