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English articles, Local search, Top Tasks

YP data freely available for developers

All the content on YP.com has been opened up for developers. Owner AT&T Interactive even challenges developers to write the best API. Yellow pages companies finally start to realise that data are mere raw material. Their future doesn’t lie in listings. Raw data never is the future in online.

Greg Sterling writes in his Screenwerk post: “AT&T Interactive Makes YP Data Available to Developers for Free with New API“. Data of more than 17 million US local businesses across more than 4,600 categories are now available to the creative minds of API developers. Not only business data such as address, telephone number and opening hours, but also maps, ratings, reviews, deals and coupons.
AT&T Interactive means it and challenges the developers with a $ 5,000 prize and promotion at SXSW for the most innovative local search app, in a contest that ends February 19.

YP data opened up to anyone – that’s a novelty. Traditionally Yellow Page publishers as any directory publishers consider their data and listings as the treasure to be guarded. Understandably, they wouldn’t open up their databases in which they have put enormous effort. Until 15 years ago, they even didn’t have databases. The content in the yellow telephone directories were the ads – and they didn’t really care what was in the ad, as long as the ad was under a correct heading and listing.
Of course, the internet changed all that. They had to start databases with much more information per business and per merchant, with brands and opening hours and reviews and maps and links and geo-information and click-to-call and mini-sites and booking and price comparison and stock availability and ever more and more.
But having more data didn’t guarantee more visitors and happier merchants. Competition came in from Google and a bunch of smaller innovators who didn’t care about, better, encouraged developers to sniff around in the database and to be creative with the data.
AT&T Interactive must be one of the first traditional Yellow Page and Interactive Yellow Page publishers to open all the data floodgates. And right they are.

Back in the 80’s, I was managing online publishing department of newspaper group De Standaard, the first to publish real time stock prices in Belgium. I learned a lot from one mistake I made: I overestimated the value of raw material. For too long we had a focus on complete and accurate feeds and listings of stock quotes. Anyone with a portfolio programme could come and buy our excellent product. It was only after some time that we realised that the aim of the client wasn’t to know the quotes, but what quotes did to their portfolios and investment strategies.

The top task wasn’t to get the raw material. Neither is it with Yellow Page data. The task of the merchant is to get customers. The task of the customer is to make a purchase.

The raw data, the information is just the enabler.

AT&T Interactive is right. Open up the floodgates.

About Toon Lowette

Customer is not king on the internet, he is dictator. Online services are successful if they allow the customer to do what he came for efficiently and without confusion. Toon Lowette is online publishing consultant in the Customer Carewords network of Gerry McGovern. Task management is the central issue. We teach websites to manage the task, not the content, not the technology. We teach websites to become relentlessly customer centric.

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