Jupiter Forecast: Local $ Grows, But Disappoints

Local advertisers have discovered the Internet and will boost their advertising 26 percent to reach $3.2 billion this year. But after that, they’ll grow just 11 percent per year through 2010, reaching $5.3 billion, according to a new Jupiter Research report, “US Local Online Advertising Forecast, 2005 to 2010.”

According to Jupiter’s analysts, local advertising will fall short in its transition to the Net, as most local businesses will be slow to jump online. Instead, local online advertising will remain centered on national firms targeting on a localized basis.

Why? The portals won’t invest in local sales forces, and existing local advertisers see better leads coming from word of mouth, magazines, trade shows and other offline marketing tactics. “They are just beginning to build databases of email addresses,” notes Jupiter.

Usage Study: 22% Quit Yellow Pages for Net

Just 22 percent of American adults say they strongly agree that “the Computer” has replaced the print Yellow Pages (YP) in their lives, according to The Yellow Pages Association’s 2005 Industry Usage Report, which was conducted by Knowledge Networks among 9,208 adults.

But even some of those adults apparently sneak a look at The Yellow Pages once in a while. The research showed that 89 percent use the print YP at least once a year, 75 percent at least once a month, and 51 percent at least once a week.

While penetration remains strong, usage continues to fall. Currently, adults who use the Yellow Pages average 1.29 lookups a week, down from 1.4 lookups in 2003 and over 2 lookups in the 1990s. The decline in lookups was especially severe in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, where residents average .6 lookups per week.

Infinity Adds AOL Local Content

Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting is focused on ramping up its Radiomat streaming network for all 183 stations in 22 markets, and will add AOL Local content. At the same time, however, it will pull out of AOL Radio, where it has streamed seven of its major stations since 2003.

Infinity’s pullout of its stations may have something to do with AOL’s recent tie to XM Radio, which now handles most of AOL’s radio programming. Infinity is currently developing a competing subscription service, HD Radio, in partnership with other key radio players.

TV-Based Local Services Beat VoIP?

One way for the telcos to beat back free or cheap Voice over IP services (VoIP) is to get away from their sole focus on the phone and move to a feature-rich, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) platform, complete with local directory, community and news services.

Amdocs, a leading telco integrator, certainly sees things this way. Amdocs Marketing Director Eitan Gelbaum said the key to winning the war with VoIP will be to transfrom the television into the family’s communications headquarters. He noted that 150 telcos worldwide have indicated that they’ll move to an IPTV platform within two or three years.

YellowPages.com: Focus is on Process

YellowPages.com, which was purchased by BellSouth and SBC SmartPages for $98 million last winter, has been largely silent on what to expect when it finally unveils its “supersite” this fall. Some, but not many, hints as to its activities were provided by CEO Charles Stubbs during his keynote address at The Kelsey Group’s Directory Driven Commerce show in Denver.

Most of the keynote was a cautious rundown of its business plan. Stubbs, who had previously headed BellSouth Intelliventures, noted that YellowPages.com remains relatively low on the totem pole “as print has an incredible value story. Electronic is complementary.”

Kelsey Show Review: YP Brands Can’t Compete

The Kelsey Group’s Directory Driven Commerce conference in Denver Sept. 27-29 saw Yellow Pages executives accepting that they’ll never have the brand power of a Google or a Yahoo. “The cat’s out of the bag,” said Dex CEO George Burnett. “We’ll never have the brand of the portals.”

Burnett could have gone further. He could have noted that Yellow Pages aren’t effectively reaching key demographic groups, have failed to prove that their Internet efforts have separate value; and suffer from a 20 percent decline in overall listings due to unlisted cellphone and VoIP numbers. More critically, they are barely enhancing their deep business profiles, which has been their unique advantage over the portals.

But Burnett and his Yellow Pages colleagues think differently. They tend to focus on their genuine success in keeping revenues up, even as usage has demonstrably gone down. Only by merging print lookups with IYP searches does the industry’s usage show growth.