Newsletter #2, July 2008

In July’s newsletter I decided to tell our registered Brownbook users a bit about getting a business found online, and about how you can use to tell people about your favourite hang-outs.  As with all our newsletters I like to include something for businesses something for everyone, some free promotion for those lucky listed businesses I pick and my own thoughts on a particular subject matter.  This months “Sarah’s Say” was about where to spend ones leisure time!

To view the newsletter please Click here.

Inaugural post

Hi! My name is Basil Berntsen and I’ll be your Canadian blogger. I hope to use this space for updates and highlights as we work on getting Canadians using Brownbook for reading and writing reviews of local businesses.

A little about me: I am from the enterprise technology market, but I am always reading and thinking about the new interactive web. I play chess and piano, and I’m about to become a father.

I signed onto because I see what we’re doing as the way of the future. Craigslist and Wikipedia have revolutionized the classifieds and encyclopedia markets by giving the consumers read/write access to the media, and it’s just a matter of time until we do the same for the business directory markets.

If you have any questions or ideas about our Canadian business, please drop my a line at basil [at] brownbook [dot] net!

Welcome aboard Basil

I would like to extend a warm welcome to Basil Berntsen who will be launching Brownbook in Canada. Basil lives in Montréal and has a programming background. By his own confession he is an inventor and had thought of producing a ‘user generated content’ type business directory many years ago, he saw and contacted us straight away wanting to help in Canada. He also confessed to having many other smart ideas e.g. farmers with fields positioned on the approaches to major airports carrying advertising rather like this KFC stunt 2 years ago. We are looking forward to his creative thinking on Brownbook to make it the number one review site in Canada, one built by everyone for everyone in a World that no longer needs the costly traditional yellow pages products.

Brownbook Mobile on New 3G Apple iPhone

brownbook_mobileI am VERY pleased to say that our mobile platform passed testing with FLYING COLORS today, and will go live at the end of our next development phase around 18th June. I see that Yellow Pages in the US has been getting some great PR about their new iPhone mobile interface – jeez, wait till they see our stuff. You can do practically everything on our mobile platform that you can do on the full site, with the exception of claiming a listing (we’re dependent upon sending you to PayPal for that, and I’m not so sure their UI is all that great on a mobile yet, but you can expect that to follow VERY soon.

One VERY cool thing, the ability to save any business listing straight to your phone’s address book. Its actually amazingly simple to program for (or so the dev guys tell me) and its equally simple in use.

Anyway, 18th June, or there abouts for mobile, coming to an iPhone near you – and a Treo, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson, Motorolla, Samsung, Nokia,…you get the idea.

If you’d like to get a preview of our Brownbook Mobile, drop me a line at dave[at], I’d be interested to hear more user feedback.


D updates – international, mobile, plus other tweaks

There’s been a lot of activity at ‘Brown Towers’ recently, not least of all was the release of USA, Canada, and Australia.

So, in the last week we’ve gone from 2.2 million businesses listed to well over 27 million (2.2m UK, 22m USA, 1.1m Canada, 2m Australia).

Recent developments include:

– Added in FOUR new countries with base data – including the ability to search globally.  You can also add businesses in ANY world country and we’re even starting to see activity in countries where we haven’t even added base data.  We also added some diddy little flags to the home page content to denote which country the home page content is coming from.

– Re-prioritised the search results to give more weight to exact matches on business name

– Added the business name to the Recently Reviewed Businesses on the home page (so you can see which busineses people are commenting on

– Modified our OpenSearch API to support country selection in the API

– Added a more obvious link to enlarge photo reviews, and to play video reviews

– Added support for an ‘affiliate code’ so our partners can provide local search services using our PLATFORM, and they can earn money when businesses claim their listings.  This can be used in conjunction with our OpenSearch API.

– Our MOBILE PLATFORM is ALMOST ready for primetime.  A few people have been trialling it for us and initial feedback is good.  We’ve just got a few more tweaks of the UI to get it just right, and that should be live in about 2 weeks.

– We have a new member joined the UK Business Team: Sarah is responsible for getting the knowledge out about and she’s going to be working on various news, promotional, and marketing-type activities.

I’ll make another update soon, the next version due in a couple of weeks has some great new tools for business owners and consumers, so stay tuned.

PS: check out this example of a business page with a photo gallery promotion (Emy Lou Photography in Brighton, UK).

Businesses should be able to respond to reviewers

There seems to be some bad feeling about local review sites like Yelp that don’t let business owners respond to bad reviews.

Here’s something I saw on techcrunch about this.

I think its bad that businesses can’t respond to reviews, don’t you.  Yelp responded to this with a feature to let businesses respond privately to reviewers, but I wonder if that is not just making the problem worse? doesn’t prevent business owners from joining the discussion about their business and responding to reviews, in fact we let them do it openly.  A business owner is clearly identified as such, so why not just let them speak.

I’d say its a bit like comments on blogs, the comments/discussion adds value to the whole, it would be dull if responses were all private – we’ve had that for years, its called email.

Businesses Switching to Local Online Marketing, Study Finds

By: iStockAnalyst   Friday, June 27, 2008 7:00 AM

As the economy falters and operating costs rise, businesses turn to local Internet advertising to increase ROI of their marketing budgets.  A report released by local advertising research company Borrell Associates concludes that local advertisers are moving their marketing funds toward Internet campaigns to the tune of $13.1 billion this year, a 50% increase from 2007.