MapQuest will begin showing business reviews from start-up Yelp on Thursday, part of a plan to expand from just a mapping site into a go-to hub of local information.
Through the deal with Yelp, MapQuest will get better locally specific content, and Yelp will get more Web site traffic from beyond tech-savvy places such as Silicon Valley that currently are familiar with the site, said Christian Dwyer, MapQuest's senior vice president and general manager.
In addition, the AOL site will add sports information to its MapQuest local site, said Mark Law, MapQuest's vice president of product development. The expansion fleshes out MapQuest's vision to reproduce what people can find in their Sunday newspaper, but in a dynamic online format.
MapQuest also is seeking to plug into the booming mobile mapping business. It's released BlackBerry-specific applications so far, and a version of its site tuned for the Safari Web browser on Apple's iPhone is due to be launched "in the next few days," Dwyer said.
The efforts come as AOL seeks to improve its financial condition so Time Warner will get a better deal selling the asset--perhaps. Dwyer wouldn't comment on MapQuest's financial performance other than to say, "We're a healthy, growing, going concern."
The new local site, initially launched a month ago, is growing in significance for the AOL division, too. It's got about 3.3 million visitors a month, compared to 48 million for the entire site, Law said.
Another change coming is a shift in ad formats. The older MapQuest site uses a somewhat antiquated large banner ad across the top--"Secrets of the ultra wealthy revealed!" said one ad I saw Wednesday. The new site uses a more modern, squarish ad on the right, and MapQuest is moving away from the banners, Dwyer said.