SOURCE: MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle

August 26, 2010 09:00 ET

MerchantCircle Introduces "Local Content Studio" to Enhance Consumer Search Experience and Expand Merchant Exposure

Andy Halliday Joins Company as Vice President and GM to Oversee Development of New Reward-Based Local Content Platform

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwire - August 26, 2010) -  MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in America with over 1.3 million local business members, has launched an ambitious new program designed to further evolve its network with the creation of the most locally relevant user-generated content ever assembled. The new program, known as "Local Content Studio," is designed to reward MerchantCircle members and other users for creating highly relevant local content -- all of which will enhance the local search experience for the tens of millions of local consumers that use MerchantCircle every month to find services in their communities.

Soft-launched in late May, Local Content Studio (LCS) will bring short-format information and expert articles onto MerchantCircle that capture the "local tail" of consumer interest. For example, rather than writing a general-interest piece on fresh-water fishing, a MerchantCircle Local Content Studio submission might focus on the best fishing tips for Five Lake, in Talkeetna, Alaska, written by a local bait shop owner. Such hyper-local content, covering tens of thousands of local topics, is of great interest to local consumers.

The new Local Content Studio platform is the next step in offering avenues for local business owners to share their expertise online. In 2009, MerchantCircle Answers was launched to provide local business owners with a mechanism to engage with and answer specific consumer questions on a multitude of topics. LCS now adds yet another avenue for merchants to grow their affinity with local consumers by creating unique local content. MerchantCircle has local business members in 95% of the 24,600 U.S. cities and towns with populations over 200.

The architect and general manager of MerchantCircle's Local Content Studio is seasoned technology entrepreneur Andy Halliday. Halliday brings with him a long history of taking product visions to reality. He was the founder of OurStory.com and Tribbit.com, and most recently worked on several startup initiatives, including the founding of Tagvault.org, an industry member organization formed to provide tools and technology for software ID tags for enterprise software asset management, and a novel cardio-biometric technology. Halliday played strategic roles as VP and GM of eCommerce for Excite@Home and Co-Founder and President of Simon Brand Ventures, a division of Simon Property Group, the nation's largest retail mall developer.

"Companies like Demand Media and Associated Content have proven that creating targeted content at scale meets a market need. Where these companies typically focus on niche topic articles that appeal to consumers across the country, MerchantCircle is focused on encouraging hyper-local content generation that connects nearby customers to the local business community," said Andy Halliday, VP and GM, Local Content Studio. "In the hyper-local context, there is great challenge and opportunity in finding new ways to build highly-specific content economically."

The LCS online authoring and publishing system can support thousands of content development projects daily across multiple job types. The projects can be claimed by local merchant members or other writers remotely, submitted, reviewed for approval or corrections, and published to local and topical "Expert Pages" on www.merchantcircle.com.

Initial response already shows solid traction for LCS. In just the first eight weeks, contributors have produced over 28,000 city descriptions and nearly 12,000 accompanying local photosets. Information on major businesses, history, places to visit and people of note were published on the local city pages. In one recent week, there were over 150 contributors with eleven writers earning over $300 each, real compensation for quality contribution, with the top two earning $642 and $798.

"We're confident we can engage merchants to promote their own specialties and towns using this new system and further evolve our network into a dynamic publishing vehicle for business owners to expose their local and professional experience," said Ben Smith IV, CEO and co-founder of MerchantCircle. "Given our deep roots with local experts in the smallest markets around the US, an underserved segment in the long tail of local content, I'm excited about the impact for Local Content Studio and confident in our ability to get important things done with Andy's team and leadership."

Objectives for the MerchantCircle Local Content Studio include:

  1. Create more local, commercially valuable content to deepen relationships between local customers and our merchants.

  2. Offer articles that merchants can engage with to bring their unique expertise to MerchantCircle pages.

  3. Reward local content experts monetarily for quality submissions.

  4. Build a vast library of proprietary local content that is unique to MerchantCircle's network and can be leveraged through the MerchantCircle API feed.

New jobs for Local Content Studio will be announced periodically to offer more opportunity for the MerchantCircle community to generate authentic and valuable information and be compensated for it. When available those engagements will be listed at: www.merchantcircle.com/contentwriter/signup.

To learn more about accessing LCS work-product via the MerchantCircle API, please send an email to: localcontent-api@merchantcircle.com.

About MerchantCircle

Founded in 2005, MerchantCircle is the largest social network of local business owners in the nation, combining social networking features with customizable web listings that allow local merchants to attract new customers. More than 20 million MerchantCircle business listings across the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Australia are easily accessed on major search engines. Currently, more than 1.3 million merchants actively use the MerchantCircle network to upload pictures, blog, create coupons and newsletters and connect with other merchants. In addition to free services, MerchantCircle offers a portfolio of premium online advertising solutions including search engine marketing and instant website development.

Recognized by JMP Securities as one of the "100 Best Privately Held Internet Companies", MerchantCircle is based in Mountain View, Calif., and funded by Rustic Canyon Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Steamboat Ventures and IAC. Learn more at www.merchantcircle.com. To access the MerchantCircle API, developers can visit: http://api.merchantcircle.com/api/v1/docs.

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