Thursday, September 02, 2004

FAST preps app to improve Internet yellow pages

By Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service September 02,

Fast Search & Transfer ASA has developed an
application designed to help providers of online
business directories and of online classified
advertisements improve the content, presentation and
navigation of their listings, the company announced

The application, called Fast AdVisor, is aimed at
online publishers of the type of business directory
information commonly found in phone books' yellow
pages and in similar but more focused
industry-specific catalogues of companies. It is also
targeted at providers of online classified ads.

With Fast AdVisor, these providers will be able to
move beyond listings that carry basic information --
business name, phone number and address, in the case
of a yellow pages publisher -- and offer other
relevant and more targeted information by pulling data
from a variety of databases belonging both to the
publisher and to third parties.

Moreover, Fast AdVisor will improve navigation of
query results by segmenting them into categories and
allowing users to drill down into them and sort them
in a variety of ways, including the ability to narrow
searches based on geographic locations, a feature that
is the latest rage in the Internet search market.

"Fast AdVisor lets publishers take the directory
listings they have and integrate them with (structured
and) unstructured data from their advertisers' Web
sites or from other content (sources) and integrate it
all into a single results page the end-user would
get," said David Isaacson, senior product marketing
manager at Fast. "The other key part is the navigation
experience. When you go to a site and you do a search,
what you get back isn't just 1,000 listings of what
matched your query, but also the categories they fall

By improving both the content, presentation and
navigation of its listings, a publisher would make its
site more attractive both to Web surfers seeking
business-directory or classified-ad information and to
advertisers seeking a place to list their business or
run their classified ads, he said.

Fast AdVisor also contains technology for determining
the relevance of query results and thus establish
rankings accordingly. It also supports multiple
languages, detects synonyms and checks spellings. It
can pull information from 225 data formats. Finally,
it has administrative functions for the IT department
to manage it, according to Fast, based in Oslo,

While the market for enterprise search software is
getting crowded, this Fast AdVisor application is so
far unique because it targets the specific underserved
segment of e-directories and online classified ads,
said Niki Scevak, a Jupiter Research analyst. "A very
interesting thing is the industry they're targeting
with this product," he said.

While general-interest search engines such as the ones
from Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. have improved over the
past few years, becoming useful tools for Web surfers
and attractive platforms for advertisers, the
technology powering e-directories is lagging behind,
preventing these publishers from taking full advantage
of the online advertising market powered by Internet
searches, Scevak said.

"Many of the Internet yellow pages and local search
sites are based on very arcane technology," Scevak
said. "Obviously, the business model developed around
search the past few years is directly applicable to
Internet yellow pages and e-directory types of
business. So what you have is a business model for
these companies to charge advertisers, but at the same
time where we are in terms of offerings at the moment
is very immature technology and sites."

"The product Fast is launching is all about
integrating multiple sources of data, whether that be
Web content, internal databases of the e-directory
publisher and so on. It's really the growing up of the
technology for that particular sector," Scevak added.

Fast AdVisor is available now and starts "at the low
six figures," the company's Isaacson said, meaning
upwards of $100,000. Fast AdVisor is based on Fast
ESP, the company's enterprise search platform.


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