There is quite a bit of difference between the two venues.
To me it is rather quite a bit easier to rank a site locally. Local businesses can be much more readily promoted with reviews and some,( note I say some here, 2 or 3 is my definition of some), reciprocal linking from other local businesses physically near you, ( local meaning 30 miles / 50 km ).
Local directories help with mentions. Mentions, reviews and "no follow" backlinks -- these can be some of the most powerful mechanisms to promote a site locally.
(These are some of the directories I use in the USA, it will be somewhat different in other areas of the world )
- Yellow Pages
- Angie's List