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.”