Return of the Citysearch


“Remember when Nintendo re-invented itself with the Wii?” “Remember when Old Spice, founded in 1934, re-invigorated their brand with those amazing Mustafa spots?” Is that what people are going to say a couple years from now about Blackberry, who just launched their hail mary with a surprisingly awesome new Z10 smartphone? Or about Citysearch, once the Yellow Pages of the Internetz?

Of course, that was before “local” moved to mobile. It was also pre-Yelp, pre-Google’s acquisition of Zagat, pre-Foursquare, pre-Scoutmob, and a whole pantload of other local-discovery start-ups vying for your traffic. But Citysearch has managed to stay alive through it all, even turning a profit, which is more than most of the competition can say. Now they’re mounting an interesting comeback strategy that, unlike Nintendo or Old Spice, doesn’t involve millions in investment in new products or fancy horse trainers, but rather in a simple idea: differentiation. While all the other local discovery apps are largely based on YOUR opinion and content, Citysearch has gone the other way, engaging dozens upon dozens of local experts around the country who know their cities inside and out. These experts, called “scouts”, include the Mayor of Portland, top New York Times food writers, professional photographers, published authors and myriad other movers and shakers in the local scene.

Instead of writing War & Peace-length rants and raves, the scouts leave quick, short tips or recommendations on local businesses and then group them in Pinterest-esque “Guides” around very cool and often super-Geeky themes available on their new mobile app or online. Take, for example, this one from expert Tolly Moseley where she rounds up the best costume shops in Austin.

Citysearch Guide Costume Shop

Or how about this funny Guide called Funky & Fabulous Places to Pee in SW Portland! It was created by an expert in Portland named Kelly Melillo who is writing a book about the best bathrooms around town. Sounds like an episode of Portlandia to me.

Places to Pee in Portland

As you can see from the app screenshot below, they don’t yet have every major city in the country, but there’s a spot to suggest your city and new markets are likely to come online over time. You can see all the Guides around the country here. Now, whether this awesomesauce is the key ingredient in a major Wii-style comeback remains to be seen. But in the meantime, check out the app and have fun with it. Looks like they’re going to let you all create your own Guides sometime in the near future, too.

Citysearch App