Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial

Nokia, Navteq and…Zvents?

October 6th, 2008 by MDob

Recently, it was announced
that Zvents, a company that bills itself as “ A unique, local experience enabling people to discover things to do, places to go, and people to see – any time and anywhere” had received $24 million in new funding from AT&T, Nokia Growth Partners and Navteq, along with two other VCs.

The announcement struck me as a little unusual since Navteq is now part of Nokia and unlikely to be considered an independent investor. In addition, Navteq did not issue a press release on this “investment”, although the company is noted in the release as “participating in the funding”. Well, I suppose the intent was to find some way to tie Navteq’s name to this transaction, which I suspect was led by Nokia Growth Partners.

In a previous blog, I had noted that TomTom seemed to be on course to transition into a content company. It seems that Navteq has many of the same intentions, or possibly this may be another sign that Nokia intends for them to pursue meaningful growth in this area.

Zvents is a Local Search and advertising network that is attempting to transform the events category into an advertising-driven events distribution network focused on the Web and mobile. (See my friend Peter Krasilvosky’s the Local Onliner for some great insights on this deal).

Why the Investment by Nokia?

Nokia and Navteq are hoping to make inroads in some portion of the Local Search marketplace that Google does not currently own (perhaps Google will buy Eventful?).

Local events is a category of news that is currently underserved in Local Search and, undoubtedly, someone will transition this category from local newspapers and radio to a mobile platform. The more interesting question is will they consider the events category as a profit driver or as a loss leader with the potential to increase distribution, advertising inventory and audience?” (Remember, many loss leaders (outside of the food industry) were once “great new products” that just could not make it on their own, but offered a venue to a broad, relatively untapped audience.).

I am yet to be convinced that presenting local events online or via mobile will become a financially satisfying investment, but it is an attractive option if you are not in the online or mobile advertising market and need to get some traction. People are always looking for things to do and keeping up with what’s going on locally is hard to do, unless you buy the local newspaper (and most of them do not do a particularly good job on local events, but, hey, something is better than nothing).

Certainly, local event reporting is something that will migrate to the mobile Web and Nokia’s interest in becoming a significant advertising channel is at the heart of this investment strategy.

Since today’s younger consumers seem to prefer not to read newspapers, it seems likely that they might prefer to find local events on the web or using a wireless device. Even so, it is difficult to imagine that there would be significant amounts of local advertising especially relevant to individual event announcements. However, there will be traffic and when you attract eyeballs there is the opportunity to advertise and sell something. We will just have to wait to see whether Nokia can make this investment work as their entry to the larger Local Search market.

Why the Navteq link?

Well, events are inherently geographic and conceptually a time-dependent Point Of Interest. If Navteq can successfully offer an “events service” as part of its data/POI offerings, it will have yet another lure to attract customers, or perhaps we should say that it will have another lure that TomTom/TeleAtlas does not have today.

The more interesting question is whether Navteq’s map database and Nokia’s software for mobile devices can become the preferred provider of infrastructure for Local Search and Local Search advertising. If Nokia can persuade the mobile market to distribute navigation and Local Search accompanied by advertisements on a per drink basis, then the game may change. If it does, it will put pressure on companies like Networks in Motion and Telenav, not to mention TomTom/TeleAtlas.

Comments, anyone?

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Posted in Google, local search advertising, MapInfo, Navteq, Nokia, place based advertising

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