In a Web event this morning, MySpace announced a new service called MySpace Local in partnership with Citysearch that will debut in open beta next month. Using the latter's database of 75,000 local businesses, MySpace has created what it's calling a "social community" to allow users and local businesses to connect to one another.
Here's how it'll work: small businesses can now have pages on MySpace, that in turn connect to "hubs" based on localities. MySpace users can connect to the city hub nearest them, share ratings and recommendations with other friends, and find new places to go.
Citysearch has been on its own quest to become hyper-local of late, going through a complete site redesign this winter that added deeper neighborhood-level information to its database. MySpace hopes to leverage that neighborhood-level data to transform its online social network into a real-world social network with real, geographic roots.
MySpace users will be able to rate, recommend, and read about three kinds of businesses to start: bars, restaurants and nightlife venues. The listing pages for each business have all the usual info: photos, maps, videos, links and hours, plus the ability for users to embed a local business in their profile as a kind of business widget.
MySpace says the City Hubs will be launched for "all" major U.S. cities, but didn't divulge which cities would be on the list. Hubs will allow users to search businesses by type, neighborhood and cuisine, and act as a clearinghouse for all reviews tied to that city. The front page of each hub will be splashed with celebrity reviews and ratings, in keeping with MySpace's music-and-entertainment bent.
Right now, MySpace Local is open only to test reviewers in limited beta mode. After MySpace and Citysearch work out the kinks and launch next month, the service will add reviews of professional services like doctors and dry cleaners, as well as hotels, travel services and local attractions. Mobile functionality will come after that, likely drawing in large part from Citysearch's revamped mobile site.
The addition of MySpace Local will make the social networking giant a head-on competitor with smaller startups like Outside.in, Yelp, and UrbanSpoon in the attempt to solve the local problem--something I wrote about earlier. To succeed against more manageable, intimate sites like those three, the behemoth will need to serve neighborhoods on the block-by-block level from the ground up--not an easy feat to tackle all at once, especially given MySpace's fickle and rambunctious usership.