Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Citysearch at Rorke's Drift

Its an amazing thing to watch a company shoot itself in the foot. You'd think that there would be some sense of perspective inside a company that gathers opinions like Citysearch does, but when the promises of social media don't save your ass entirely, you feel like placing the blame somewhere and the hippies writing tweets and creating "community" seem like the perfect place to clean house. It seems to be a trend for companies to cut out their heart in an effort to save the body. The highest profile example of this was MySpace as they tried to be more like facebook and twitter, they slashed their music and comedy staff, the ONLY parts of MySpace that were actually working for them. Comix, the comedy club in NY, is in a similar boat having rid itself of the innovative Ochi's Lounge and holding "Club Nights" in the space in order to make ends meet. Who knows if that will work? My guess is that half a nightclub and half a comedy club make for a whole mess. Pabst Blue Ribbon after being bought by Los Angeles businessmen, is going through a similar rehashing where their Social Media reps are being slashed and community outreach is being curtailed in lieu of more traditional advertising. Ballsy, considering that PBR's success has been largely in part to its grass roots, divey, image. Now, Citysearch is getting rid of its editorial staff. Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and outreach are at a standstill.

The thing that all of these companies have in common, aside from their clumsy willingness to do away with the things that define them as unique, is the ominous and crushing competitor that looms over their very existence. MySpace had facebook biting at its heels, Comix has 3 more established Comedy Clubs in NY hoping for its demise, PBR has actual beer to compete with, and Citysearch has the behemoth known as Yelp.

All of this reminds me of on of my favorite movies- ZULU!

When faced with overwhelming odds (Ten thousand Zulu Warriors Vs. your 150) , you button up the top button your tunic, straighten up your pith helmet, and do what you do best. You are, after all, you. No one is a better "You" than you are, so you become the best "you" that you can be.

So who is Citysearch if not their content? They are no Yelp. Yelp's user generated content is a fearful and vengeful beast compared to the insightful tips generated by Citysearch's staff. Yelp is so big, that an attempt to compete rather than finding your niche and growing there, could result in the utter ruin of your brand by playing catch up where there is no need in a playground that's too big. This of course is assuming that competition with Yelp is behind the seemingly suicidal moves at Citysearch. Even if there is a just a tech readjustment, the personality crisis will probably be too much. Who wants to reimagine Citysearch as Citygrid when you can just "Yelp it"? All of this smacks of the manic "Changes" at Myspace before it settled into its current and smaller role. Unfortunately with the loss of E-Vite (Yes guys, e-vite is done, just admit it.) can "Citygrid" get any smaller before disappearing? Again, this is just assuming that it might be some sort of misguided rebranding. It could be, most horribly, a vicious cost cutting of full time professionals for cheaper part time labor which is illegal in places like France.

Whatever the case, I'm sure that this decision was not come to suddenly, and I'm sure the powers that be are well aware that they are risking a lot by switching gears rather than by reinforcing the strong points.

The lesson from this, I suppose, is yet to be seen. Rather than buckling down and relying on what works for them, like the men at Rorke's drift, Citysearch has doubled down that reinforcements and a new strategy will win the day, much like another heroic stand at a mission.

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