MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation”

I have recently had an extensive interview with Mark Law, VP of Development & Mark Law, Vice President of Product Development and Christian Dwyer, Senior Vice President & General Manager, at MapQuest, Inc, It is now published at SearchEngineLand: MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation”

Mapquest, the long time leader in mapping has been on a recent upgrade warpath as it were. They have added a number of new features all the while attempting to keep their very loyal user base happy. Do they have what it takes to make it a competitive race in Maps and Local? Let me know what you think.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation” by

8 thoughts on “MapQuest: “We’ve Come Out Of Hibernation””

  1. I think Mapquest definitely has what it takes to keep ahead of Google Maps and to make Local very interesting. I’ve been familiar with the company for more than 7 years and what’s really holding them back is AOL LLC.

    AOL has continually underinvested in Mapquest.

    Mapquest is very profitable (and could be a whole lot more profitable), but all their margin goes to AOL to shore up under performing divisions. As a result, the same headcount freezes and draconian cost controls are applied to Mapquest that are imposed on AOL’s weaker properties. The upshot is that Mapquest has had very little cash to add staff or research new data sources.

    Most of what the other sites are doing has already been thought of at Mapquest, but Mapquest has been unable to pursue much of their innovative ideas for simple financial reasons.

    Historically, Mapquest has been poorly managed at the AOL corporate level. Prior execs treated it as a cash cow, but the current guy in charge, Ted Cahall, has been much more supportive. It should be no surprise that with Cahall’s support (primarily in the form of staffing allowances and added funds), Mapquest has been able release more compelling features more frequently. It would seem to follow, then, that AOL could get more out of Mapquest if they loosened the purse strings a bit more.

    Mapquest has also contended with an uneven playing field regarding revenue expectations. Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and Local Live are completely, or mostly, exempt from any corporate revenue requirements.

    The other guys don’t have to advertise, so they don’t.

    Mapquest, on the other hand, has been a stand alone, for profit enterprise since its inception. In light of the fact that Mapquest has been advertising all along while the competition hasn’t, it really makes their king-of-the-hill position much more impressive.

    The current management within Mapquest, specifically Christian Dwyer and Mark Law, have really put together some nice adds to the Mapquest site. They won’t compete with Google or Yahoo on pure search, but then they don’t have to. They just have to keep their focus on the areas where they can compete and differentiate, and they’ll do just fine.

    IF AOL gets smarter and allows them more resources, that is.

  2. JoeM

    It sould seem given history and current problems that is a big IF on the AOL front, no?

    In my conversations with Mark Law and Christian Dwyer, they were passionate and smart about what they had in front of them. They seemed poised for the necesary effort to stay successful.

    Do you think users though, will choose the non advertsing products if given a choice? Even if long haul it can
    t really stay that way.

    Mike

  3. “Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and Local Live are completely, or mostly, exempt from any corporate revenue requirements.”

    I’m not sure I follow you on this, JoeM.

    Maps is another adsense venue, no? Can you explain what you mean by that?

    Mike…I really enjoyed this interview and am continuing to root for MapQuest to stick it out and thrive.

    Miriam

  4. Mike:

    For Mapquest’s sake, I hope they can compel with their content and that they successfully hyper-target their ads. If online maps and directions become commoditized to the casual user, then yes, I think users will opt for the site(s) with few or no ads cluttering the interface and introducing confusion about organic results vs. sponsored links.

    Thank you for this piece. I look forward to more information from these guys and their team.

    JoeM

  5. Miriam:

    Google Maps may be an AdSense venue in and of itself, but my understanding is that Google is only recently beginning to monetize the Map site in this way. They make much more AdSense revenue from 3rd party sites. In this regard, Google Maps has been “carried” by the rest of Google’s rev generating enterprises. My sense is that Google Maps’ bottom line direct ad contribution is insignificant compared to rev from the outside advertisers using AdSense.

    The “cleaner”, “less cluttered” look of Google Maps is a luxury they enjoy that Mapquest cannot consistently compete with because Mapquest must advertise to monetize.

    Does this clarify my earlier statement?

    JoeM

  6. Maps is generally perceived by the folks at Google as “not monetized”… and unlike Mapquest they are not held to a income model as the basis for funding development. Not only does Maps not need to carry its weight financially, its future development is not dependent on income. It is viewed as a “strategic” investment to monetized at some future point…the when and how to be determined.

    Mike

  7. I agree with Mike. But my take on it is Google Maps will own the Maps of all the net, and put sites like Mapquest out of business. I figure that Google will eventually sell Maps listings for an astronomical price, or a pay per click feature that only very wealthy businesses will be able to afford, which is fine with me, because so far, I am seeing incredibly spammy sites ranking in Maps that arent even ranking on the first 100 pages in natural language.

  8. I have to agree with Panzer Mike. Let’s wake up and smell the coffee. Google is the internet. If you don’t have Google on your side then it’s really hard to have much of anything. John Chow is still doing alright, but he is lucky.

    As for Mapquest, they’re Google’s competition. Google has the power and they will likely put the big MQ out of business.

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