When it comes to local advertising, everybody wants to replace the Yellow Pages, which makes money hand-over-fist from local merchants across the country. Seeing Interactive, A Y Combinator startup which launched last March, just raised a seed round of about $1 million from some high-profile investors to help local newspapers take more of those local advertising dollars away from the phone directories. The investors include Baseline Ventures, Lerer Ventures, FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit, Delicious founder Joshua Schachter, and Alex Moore (an early employee at Palantir).
In small towns across the country where many people still haven’t heard of Yelp, the Yellow Pages is the only game in town for local business advertising. Seeing Interactive goes to the local papers and gives them a white-label service for selling online ads and services to local businesses. They are already selling these businesses print ads for $200 or so. Now for an extra $5 or so, they can turn those exact same print ads into online ads. They can also get listed in an online SEO-optimized directory of local businesses, and even get their own simple Website (via Weebly). In other words, Seeing interactive creates an online presence for local businesses and leverages the existing salesforce of local newspapers to sell those ads.
Each directory is different and tied to the newspaper. For instance, here is a local business directory created by the Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, MD. Each directory page has a map, address, phone number, description, and business hours. People can leave reviews using Facebook Connect. Seeing Interactive is currently working with 87 newspapers. iPhone and Android local directory apps are in development. It could also make deals down the line with local online-only news sites.
Lerer Ventures, Baseline (Steve Anderson), Paul Buchheit, Joshua Schachter, and Alex Moore (Angel, Early Palantir employee).