Ask City bets big on its users' sophistication

Generally, I’m reluctant to take on the marketing-speak associated with a new product launch. But when described Ask City to me as “an application rather than a website”, it really helped me understand what they were trying to do.
The application they’ve created works well at connecting events and businesses in geographical context. They’ve tied everything together in an application that really does make it possible to plan an evening’s dinner and entertainment, including reviews, tickets, and reservations.
Local has been the application of the future for what seems like forever. AOL and CitySearch and Microsoft generated a lot of excitement with their big investments in national networks of local sites in the summer of ’96.
But Jupiter’s research shows that consumers’ use of local sites has not increased significantly in the last five years. An entire generation of sites have been created in the years since the bubble burst and the vast majority of us have not really changed we use the web to navigate our communities.
It’s not surprising, since the sites are not really all that new. The big guys’ local sites may be too influenced by their core business. Yahoo’s local services look like a portal, but feels unfinished and underpopulated. Google’s local services are about local search, which is a on-strategy but not compelling. Microsoft’s local sites are generic front-ends enhanced with CitySearch listings and yellow pages listings. And the yellow pages companies seem to be focused on creating snazzy Web 2.0 versions of their big, yellow books.
Ask City is something new. It brings together a lot of the elements I’ve been looking for in a local site, and does a good job of integrating them: mapping, events, movies, tickets, restaurants, and tools for linking them all together. This doesn’t just feel like a local extension of their core brand, or a bunch of InterActive Corp. products slapped together in search of synergy.
There are a lot of good ideas in Ask City, and it’s going to take us all a while to learn how to use it in our daily lives. That makes it a pretty big bet on the sophistication of their customers.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.