Tag Archives: Yellow Pages

DMS ’11 Takeways: Consolidate and Verticalize

We’re over it by now. Yellow Pages aren’t universally used anymore, or as frequently used; and that there is a lot of competition for driving small business sales.

But at BIA/Kelsey’s DMS ’11 Summit last week in Denver, one walked away with a real appreciation of the foundational role that Yellow Pages still play in the SMB ecosystem; the role they may potentially play – perhaps in partnership with other media ; and the robustness of SMB ad channels in general.

As YellowBook CEO Joe Walsh noted, while the industry is definitely “in the beginnings of a shakeout or consolidation, “usage is way stronger than the perception of usage. We have to work around that perception. Yellow Pages will be around for a while. They provide a terrific ROI for advertisers.”

Walsh went so far as to lobby for intra-industry mergers, something that brought some rolled eyes from audience members , some still tied to the old wars of the phone company originated utility books versus the independent books, which originally came on the scene underpricing the utility books by 50 percent or more. Now, however, they often have common financial investors.

“Over the next couple of years, you will see coming together a lot of competitive factions within the business,” says Walsh. The advantages will include “price stability, the doubling of usage for surviving products, a higher ROI to advertisers, product stability and extended life, and a business model that can survive and grow.”

Walsh bragged that Yellowbook is still “outperforming others by six or seven times. But we are still shrinking,” even with digital growth at 18 percent or more in some heartland markets. “My advice to you is to suck it up.”

Yellow Pages can also do more than suck it up, of course. Specifically, they can verticalize their offerings. Golden Pages CEO Nir Lampert told the DMS audience how Golden Pages, which is Israel’s largest Yellow Pages company, has used online verticals focused on medical recommendations and price comparisons to remake itself into a growing company. Without the verticals, “we’d otherwise decline,” he said.

In 2010, online made up seventy percent of revenues, or $75 million. It will be 80 percent in 2011.

Lampert said that vertical development has focused on five consumer needs: Reliability, necessity, affordability, emotional involvement and specialty. “We built products that support decisions in vertical segments,” said Lampert. A lot of it is based on shared services with print and other verticals. “We realized that shifting to online is, in itself, insufficient.”

Larkin: When It Pays to Advertise in a Niche Publication

Niche publications serving specific demographics, like gays, seniors or Koreans, can make a lot of sense. But not every niche is the same.

Longtime YP executive Dick Larkin, the “Small Business Commando,” lays out some rules of the road for niche advertising in the latest edition of his newsletter.

“Your customers want respect, acceptance, and integrity,” says Larkin. “Advertising has to ring true for it to be effective.”

In selling to niche audiences, Larkin advises publishers to brutally assess their own strengths. The only publications that should get the business are those that better serve niche needs than competitors. A tougher question: Would they refer their own friends to a niche business?

YPA 09: Malcolm Gladwell Talks Yellow Pages

Best Selling author Malcolm Gladwell, the man behind top business tomes such as The Tipping Point, Blink, and now Outliers, spoke today at the Yellow Pages Association conference in San Diego, suggesting that the Yellow Pages advantage over Google and others is their “deep trust” with advertisers — something he may have picked up at a YPA breakfast before his speech.

But recognizing that the industry has been disrupted by technology trends and other factors, Gladwell provided three lessons that allows a David to beat a Goliath. To paraphase:

1- Don’t exaggerate the challenges. Sometimes a series of thoughtful, little steps can change the course of events. Everyone said New York City would require a Manhattan Project to recover from its desolate state in the early 1990s. But it only took three years and relatively small initiatives such as community policing, he noted.

2- Reframe the issue. Yellow Pages can’t be seen as an obsolete big fat book. Look at how the iPod won by being turned into a fashion statement instead of a complex technological advance.

3- Leverage “social connectors.” A small percentage of people who review products, check prices and stimulate interest in a product are always a major key to success.

“If you are willing to challenge convention and work harder, you can win,” said Gladwell. It was a privilege to hear him (and have him autograph some copies of Outliers).

Malcolm Gladwell at YPA 09

Malcolm Gladwell at YPA 09

YPA Fights Local ‘Opt-out’ Requirements for Home Delivery

Arguing that local and state “opt-out” requirements for Yellow Pages delivery would cripple local businesses and force industry layoffs, the Yellow Pages Association has successfully fought and beat back opt-out requirements this year in some states, reports YPA President Neg Norton.

But the industry must still contend with additional opt-out efforts in other states, as well as legislation in Oregon that would limit distribution to just one book unless there is a specific request for additional editions — an unmanageable and anti-competitive situation that doesn’t recognize the free market rivalry between incumbent and independent directories. “I don’t need to spell out the impact” of such a bill if it passed, said Norton.

Of equally grave concern to the industry is a mandatory opt-out ordinance that has passed in Albany, N.Y., that would require distributors to be licensed. In passing the ordinance, the city council cited sloppy distribution, a high volume of complaints and that there was no way to opt out, said Norton. “Albany should be a wake-up to manage prudently, or face the consequences,” he said.

Meanwhile, the YPA is seeking to pre-empt mandatory opt-outs via the launch of Yellowpagesoptout.com. “We’ve had a positive response,” said Norton. “But the information is only as good as what the publishers provide to us.”

YPA 09: Dave Swanson,RH Donnelley; Chris Cummings, Marquette Group

Keynoting at the Yellow Pages Association Convention in San Diego today, RH Donnelley CEO Dave Swanson acknowledged “the worst local media environment this country has seen since the Great Depression.” But YPA’s outgoing chairman also noted that “the will to live in our industry is very strong.”

“We’re moving from sellers of advertising products to partners in advertiser growth,” he said. “We’re learning how to price value more accurately across a wide range of geo-verticals.”

Swanson warned that solutions are “not just about innovation.” He noted a recent conversation with an RHD salesperson who complained: “’We’ve spent so much time learning to build effective digital profiles, we’ve forgotten how to build print profiles.’ We cannot forget the basics,” said Swanson.

Swanson’s comments were followed by Incoming Chair Chris Cummings, CEO of Marquette Group – the first time, incidentally, that YPA has been chaired by a CMR. Cummings’ ascension is especially noteworthy given the ongoing merger talks between the YPA and The Association of Directory Marketers, a CMR organization.

“I like our space,” said Cummings. “We know what ads work. More importantly, the advertiser knows.” Cummings added that Yellow Pages have made tremendous strides in recent years to provide accurate accountability for their advertising via call measurement and other means – something that newspapers and other local media generally lack.

How Can Google Improve? Local Execs Comment

We all live in Google’s world now. Nobody would dispute that there are many positives associated with that. But how do industry practitioners really feel about it. Can it be improved? We asked three executives who cover different parts of the local ecosystem, promising them anonymity.

An aggregator said he thinks he should be treated as more of a partner. “Aggregators/intermediaries are treated with a broad brush, assumed to be link farms/inefficient nuisances, and essentially outcast,” he complained.

“In the business of local, the aggregation of advertisers and/or of content with valuable ad products and/or user utility can be very appealing to consumers and to local merchants. This dimension of innovation is being penalized by Google’s approach to search, and there are no partnership formulas that align with this.”

On the other hand, an SEM exec said that Google is “heading in the right direction” with its local products, especially Google Maps. But “the results are often not as relevant as their organic results. I believe they are getting traction simply because they are forcing users to go there by adding the 10-pack pack at the top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).”

More importantly, Google Local’s volume isn’t high enough. “From a monetization standpoint, we would like to spend more money on Local Business Ads (ads on maps) – but the volume does not seem to be there – at least like it is compared to regular ads displayed on the organic results pages.

“What Google could do to help us and other local marketers is to allow us to differentiate on clicks between regular organic results (below the map) and clicks to links displayed in the 10 pack,” he added. “Currently, they look the same from a tracking standpoint.”

Meanwhile, a Yellow Pages executive said he isn’t very interested in selling for Google. “Why on earth would anyone be a reseller for Google Local – it isn’t economically feasible,” he said. “They don’t provide discounts to resellers, volume benefits, or royalties to sellers, who may buy directly from Google after the initial sale.”

Marketplaces 2009: AOL’s Chris Spanos, Yahoo’s Atif Rafiq

AOL Yellow Pages has greatly benefitted from search engine optimization, with 50 percent of its traffic coming from SEO, according to Chris Spanos, GM, local search, who was speaking today at Kelsey’s Marketplaces conference in Los Angeles. “We have a very healthy Yellow Pages business,” said Spanos, who called it “the number one independent Yellow pages” site. “If the AOL network were to go away, the business would still be strong because of what we’re getting from Google and MSN.”

Spanos also noted that AOL was effectively using search (and AOL.com) to drive traffic into its numerous vertical sites. AOL autos and AOL real estate are leaders in their space, he said. These “help uses make the right decisions,” he noted. “We monetize that in a strong way.”

Yahoo Local lead Atif Rafiq, speaking on the same session, made similar points about Yahoo’s efforts in verticals and search. “There is a deep integration of local into (user) experiences,” he noted. Rafiq also said that Yahoo is looking beyond basic “transactional type things” in local verticals. “The next step up is research….which (requires) more sophisticated behavior.”