The multimedia Yellow Pages directory, under development for the past year at Hearst New Media & Technology in New York and Hearst Interactive Canada in Montreal, builds on Hearst's longstanding print Yellow Pages experience. Users will be able to flip through still-image ads, print out coupons and make purchases using their TV set and remote control.
The project will get its first test in September, when the UBI interactive TV system, in which Hearst is a partner, starts up in the northern Quebec city of Chicoutimi.
For Hearst, the directory may serve as the basis for other interactive Yellow Pages activities in the U.S.
"It's something we're working on and looking at," said Charles Schott, VP of Hearst New Media & Technology. In the meantime, "We're up there to learn. We've got a full-fledged challenge to make this a business [in Quebec]."
Hearst expects the Canadian directory to contain 10,000 ads-80% of the businesses in the Chicoutimi region-when the UBI project starts. The multimedia directory will compete directly with the print Yellow Pages distributed by Bell Canada.
Marketers will be able to update ads electronically, giving current information on prices and product availability.
"If you're looking for a machine to clean your rugs, you will be able to get how many machines are left at the moment .*.*., what is the exact rate for these machines, and instantly you will be able to make your own reservation," said Sylvie Lalande, president of the UBI consortium.
Hearst expects to start selling ads on the system in a few months; it's now showing a prototype to local businesses. Hearst won't reveal ad rates for competitive reasons with Bell Canada, but said in addition to charging advertisers for a listing on the system it expects to collect transaction fees from them.