FAST preps app to improve Internet yellow pages

Fast AdVisor helps providers of online business directories improve the content, navigation of listings

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 Thursday.

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 into."

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, Norway.

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.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform