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At Search Starts Here: AOL’s Christian Dwyer Charts MapQuest’s Future

Local Search Association — “Search Starts Here”

Headline Address: Christian Dwyer, Senior VP and GM, MapQuest
Moderator: Matt Booth, Chief Strategy Officer, ILM Program Director, BIA/Kelsey

AOL’s MapQuest has undergone many transformations over the years, changing owners, business models and leadership teams as it adjusts to new threats and opportunities. It has consistently survived and thrived through these changes. MapQuest’s Chris Dwyer offered his insights into how the company has successfully managed through transformation over the years.

Dwyer started at MapQuest in 2004 and rose to his currently position in 2007. He has been steadily remaking the service according to a long-term road map designed to enhance the value of the user experience. This ranged from updating the old 1996 logo and page to its current look emphasizing simple searches for turn-by-turn directions, fewer ads, easy maps, social (MapQuest Vibe) and featured services like National Parks.

MapQuest Screen Shot

Dwyer said the focus to reengineer MapQuest led to the new search interface, putting everything above the fold and removing 67 percent of the ads as many were judged to be not relevant to consumer nor valuable to advertiser. The site now ranks 16th in mobile search sites and draws 40 million users per month.

Using social signals and location, ads can be better targeted to where the user is and what his or her interests are. These big data solutions really help improve the consumer experience and deliver more relevant ads.

MapQuest Vibes encourages users to plan and share trips, and inspires them to collect, organize, share trip info.

BIA/Kelsey’s Matt Booth, who moderated the session, observed that, “MapQuest used to be the place to go — just like the Yellow Pages were the place to go. What’s to be learned by directories from the MapQuest transformation?”

Dwyer responded: “Make the decision to commit. You can’t stand still. And my biggest advice is go bold, go big and don’t look back.”

Local Media Watch – BIA/Kelsey