Category Archives: Publisher News

Where’s my white pages?

Once again YP/AT&T being taken to task for removing their residential white pages from the print directory: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20140207/ARTICLES/140209903#gsc.tab=0

As an independent publisher now, I’m glad they do.  It provides a real differentiator between their yellow only directory loaded with mostly national accounts, and our yellow pages (with only local small businesses) which also have a white page section (business & residential intermingled) in a type size you can actually read, and a real community section.

Now that’s a “real” yellow pages….

As the company noted, consumers/users have “other” options.  Sure.  But what they seem to have missed is that if someone is hold a print yellow pages, and using it to look up stuff, why would they want/need to go online for something else?

 

Names & Numbers Recognized as Publisher of the Year

At its recent 2013 Annual Convention and Partners Trade Show in St. Augustine, Florida, the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) recognized Names & Numbers, as this year’s Gold Book Publisher of the Year at the Gold Book Awards.  It was the first time the company has been recognized.

The ADP’s Publisher of the Year recognizes a company that has “exemplified overall excellence and achievement.”  Names & Numbers currently publishes 66 phone books throughout the mid-west and northwest areas of the country along with offering a suite of mobile and online Yellow Page products.  Established in 1974, currently Names & Numbers publishes more than 4-million phone books annually and employs approximately 250 people in 11 states.

The Gold Book Awards recognize publishers and suppliers for outstanding achievements in the directory advertising business. “Congratulations to all of our 2013 Gold Book Award winners,” said Cindi Aldrich, the new association president. “These winning companies are applauded for their outstanding directory products and marketing innovations in the directory publishing industry.”  Additional information about the Gold Book awards can be found on the association website at www.adp.org.

We interviewer Founder/CEO Ken Brock back in 2010 (link to full article), and you will note that many of the things Ken said at that time are still true today and part of the reason why his team has been recognized.  He and his team follow a very straight forward approach – put out a very accurate, high quality product that users and advertisers both enjoy using, promote them passionately in the local community, be an integral/active part of the community, and try to walk in the door of every business in the market.  The text type in the books is not microscopic in size to save a few pages.  White pages are included, as well as a robust community information section.  The covers are free of any advertising and feature scenes from local photographers/artists.  That’s the formula for being a successful publisher, and being recognized by the publishing community.

Congratulations to the entire Names and Numbers team for your accomplishments.

Who says Yellow Page publishers are dull, uncreative, and no fun??

One of the items pinging around the internet world these days is the hunt for Batman.  Really.

Turns out that American actor Adam West, best known for his lead role in the original Batman TV series on the ABC TV network and the initial Batman feature film from 1966 lives near Ketchum, Idaho.  Even at the ripe young age of 84, West is still well known for his voice work on animated series such as The Fairly OddParents and Family Guy.

An online blogger known as slapshotten11 also happens to live near West, and recently decided to look him up in the Names & Numbers Sun Valley Idaho phone book that covers the Kethcum area.  As he found, it wasn’t easy to track down the Batman:

The idea was the brain child of Ken Martin, a sales manager at Names & Numbers. We asked him to tell us more about how this little bit of fun came to be in the Sun Valley Names and Numbers Telephone Book:

“…About 20 years ago, I was skiing in my home town of Sun Valley, Idaho.  It was April and a beautiful day. I stopped for a mid-mountain break and snack at the historic Roundhouse Restaurant.  The deck at Roundhouse is a favorite place to enjoy the sunshine and views.  While there, I overheard the unmistakable voice of Adam West, a Sun Valley local.  He was having lunch at Roundhouse with his wife.  Adam’s voice is quite distinctive and reminded me of his character Batman from the Batman television series.  As per local Sun Valley etiquette, I let them enjoy their day without any intrusion and resumed skiing.

A few weeks later, we started sales for the Sun Valley Names & Numbers Telephone Book.  One night, I reminisced about my encounter with Adam West and thought it would be fun to put Batman in the telephone book.   I gave that a bit of thought and came up with an idea.

At the time, it was pretty easy for me to add a new “custom” yellow page heading.  I thought; let’s create a new heading for CRIMEFIGHTERS.  As I began to write up the appropriate paperwork, I thought I’ll make it more fun by creating a cross-reference to the white pages which led me to more creative thinking and including something about ‘Bruce Wayne – Millionaire’ and Adam West.  I wrote up an order with 4 different white and yellow page listings (as seen above).

Several months went by as we continued our sales in Sun Valley and I completely forgot about the Batman listing.  The book was delivered in November and I was having dinner with some friends at a local restaurant.  Our waitress knew that I did the phone book and told me how she went to look up the phone number of Tom West and came across the listing for Adam West and Batman.  She thought that was hysterical.  I thought, I hope we don’t get sued for trade name or copyright violation.

The next morning, I was in our office and the telephone rang.  It’s a small office and I could hear the receptionist’s conversation.  Our receptionist’s name answered the phone and I heard her say “Oh hi Batman, this is Robin…..  yes, he’s here,  would you like to speak with him?”  Robin informed me that Batman was on the phone and wanted to speak with me.

I took the call.  It was clearly Adam West’s voice who asked me if I was the person responsible for putting Batman in the telephone book.  I hesitated before responding, thinking again… what have I done and do I want to admit this.  I had to tell the truth and replied that indeed it was me.  Adam West responded that he thought it was great and that he really appreciated that we hadn’t listed his actual telephone number and asked if he could stop by to pick up some copies to send to his friends.

About a week later, on the front page of USA Today was the caption:  “Holy Run Around – in the local Sun Valley telephone directory, Batman is listed under CRIMEFIGHTERS in the yellow pages”  They then proceeded to provide the rest of the chain of listings.  The story also was on nationally syndicated radio as well as on the Tonight Show.

The listings have continued to appear ever since and is part of what sets the Names and Numbers Telephone Directory apart.….”

Who says Yellow Page publishers can’t be creative and have a little fun?   Perhaps more publishers should consider similar efforts as a way to bring some additional attention to the high quality print and online products they produce.  It certainly can’t hurt…

Valley YP Adds Video To Online Hostess

Valley Yellow Pages has now added video to their online hostess function for the MyYP online directory product.

“Jeannie” has been the MyYP online hostess since 2009, helping users through the ins-and-outs of the site and explaining features of the print directory that many don’t know exist, such as the 50 plus pages of community information in each printed Valley Yellow Pages directory. Valley has now taken the MyYP.com site to a new level by incorporating over 100 new category specific videos. For an example of Jeannie in action, check this video out at: http://www.myyp.com/advertisevideo. Who wouldn’t want someone with a little wit and humor to discuss hot topics like plumbing, roofing, and pizza. Michele Meisch, Marketing Manager at Valley Yellow Pages commented, “…we love the depth and action she brings to our site and users have been asking for more. Now anytime a user searches one of the top 103 most frequently searched categories on MyYP.com, they will see a picture of Jeannie above the category heading. Clicking that image will launch a video featuring her helpful tips.”

Valley did also note in their announcement of this new capability that printed Yellow Pages are widely used on a regular basis – recent studies show that 75% of adults still used their Yellow Pages during the last year, with 54% referring to the directory monthly, and 37% using it weekly. Add on a useful online Yellow Pages site such as MyYP.com and it should be no surprised that the combined usage is still increasing year to year.

“Phone books are still a very important piece of our economy and help generate billions of dollars in business transactions that the economy needs to keep itself going,” said Sieg Fischer, president and CEO of Valley Yellow Pages. “We want to continue to bring buyers and sellers together and work cooperatively with each community where we do business.”

Updated Industry Opt-out Site Rolled Out

As they have been promising for months now, the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) and the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) today launched an upgraded website at www.yellowpagesoptout.com that allows consumers nationwide to easily manage the delivery of their phone directories (Official press release).  Consumers can now go to a single location to select which phone directories they receive, or to stop directory delivery altogether.

I ran a search for the area where we use to live in North Carolina and the system smartly displayed all of the books we use to get in the area:

When the original site was launched in 2009, the site only provided information on individual publishers that consumers needed to contact individually.  The upgraded and redesigned interface increases consumer convenience and reduces confusion about the options available to manage phone book delivery by eliminating the need to contact multiple publishers.

In the press release Neg Norton, president of YPA notes that “…our industry is taking a giant leap forward today by launching a clearinghouse site for consumers to control the delivery of directories.  The site, supported by directory publishers across the country, illustrates our ongoing commitment to not delivering a directory to someone who doesn’t want one.”

Larry Angove, president and CEO, Association of Directory Publishers added that “…we continue to believe, and research supports, that directories remain an important tool for consumers searching for local information.  That said, we believe it is equally important to provide a simple solution for consumers who only want a certain directory or feel they can do without a directory.”

Those who have been fighting the distribution of these directories have ignored publishers ongoing position that if someone didn’t want a phonebook, they shouldn’t have to get one.  The associations should be congratulated on this unique collaboration effort among large and small publishers across the country that shows a commitment to our promise to reducing unwanted directories.  158 publishers are currently in the site database.

“Consumers continue turning to print Yellow Pages, both to help find local businesses, driving valuable new leads for our advertisers, and also to quickly access community and government information,” said Norton. “We believe print remains a central component of our industry’s growing portfolio, which today includes digital and mobile platforms. We’re constantly working to transform and innovate so that we can continue supporting local businesses and consumers in the most environmentally friendly way.”

Growing call tracking levels support industry research showing that over 75% of U.S. adults use print Yellow Pages to find local businesses each and every year.  Hence, advertisers are still realizing a return on the investment for local directory advertising of at least $14 for every $1 spent.

Without a doubt this updated effort improves the opt-out process drastically. But ultimately some critics will still not be happy. For example, look at this lead paragraph from the San Francisco Examiner:

In a tech-savvy and environmentally aware region like the Bay Area, which is home to online directories such as Yelp and Google Local, the arrival of a new Yellow Pages book can seem like a blast from the past.

Didn’t realize that class warfare was now linked to the distribution of yellow page directories, but hey, we are talking about San Francisco.  It’s just a shame the industry would have to lower any of its standards to appease such a small bunch of snobs. But the Examiner article did at least correctly contain this item:

And yet, for all of the griping by  people who wish they could opt out of receiving a phone book, thousands of small businesses in San Francisco continue to depend on their Yellow Pages advertising, Amy Healy said. <YPA Staff>

“It’s not sexy,” she said. “But it works for them.”

Has, still is, and will continue to be the best advertising media for most small – midsized businesses.  No one will disagree that consumers today find information in all sorts of ways and usually many check multiple sources when searching for information about products or services.  But we also know that consumers are still turning to those print Yellow Pages, and will continue to for years to come.

And of course the city of Seattle still doesn’t get it.  Despite facing a lawsuit from the industry, the Seattle City Council on Monday voted to stick with a 14-cent fee it plans to charge Yellow Pages distributors for every book that goes to Seattle residents.  I guess the industry should be somewhat pleased that the city backed away from a $148 tonnage fee it approved in October to help pay the cost of recycling the advertising books.  But despite today’s op-out site launch announcement, the Council still hasn’t dropped its October action to create a registry for people who want to opt out of receiving Yellow Pages-type phone books.

It will be interesting to see how many people actually ask to opt-out of their directory deliveries.  After most publishers initiated their own opt-out programs, YPA started their initial site, and numerous paper atheists began blogging campaigns to get people to opt-out, publishers have reported a significant drop off in the numbers of people requesting opt-out over the past months to almost a trickle.  Those publishers that have discussed opt-out levels have consistently indicated that less than 5% do.

Dex One Posts Q2 Results

Dex One (the publisher formerly known as R.H. Donnelley) reported Q2 sales that were down 13% YOY.  Results were in line with what most other major publishers have been showing.  With major products in big markets hard hit by the economy such as Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, the results would seem to offer some hope that we are close to the bottom.

Steven M. Blondy, Executive Vice President and CFO of Dex One Corporation noted in the company press release that “…although our strict credit policies may have negatively impacted ad sales results, particularly as economic conditions deteriorated last year, the benefits of our strong receivables portfolio are clearly evident in recent write-off trends.”

Blondy also commented that “…ad sales trends in the second quarter were better than the first quarter, as selling conditions slowly recovered. We now expect full year 2010 ad sales to decline near or slightly below the bottom end of our previous guidance range.

On the more positive side the company increased guidance for both 2010 EBITDA and cash flow, mostly from the stricter credit policies which have reduced bad debt, and a continued “cost discipline”.

Of note is that no mention was made on the progress of the CEO search to replace “retired” former CEO Dave Swanson

Our Take:

There comes a point where you can only squeeze so much savings from cost controls to generate better bottom line results.  Eventually, the top line sales need to turn around to survive.  One way to grow the top line is to loosen credit policies.  But in this economy, that means a much higher bad debt, so it is really a double edge sword.

You don’t need public opinion polls or other fancy measurements to what’s going on in the economy.  The recent Yellow Page industry results are a direct indicator of how things are really doing on Main Street as it reflects the financial health and stability of small to midsized business in the US.  If this significant portion of the business sector is still struggling and fearful of spending money, it’s going to be reflected in lower advertising expenditures, plain and simple.

Despite all of the posturing and happy sunshine faces coming out the White House, it is clear the supposed economic stimulus has done nothing for the vast majority of small business or the economy in general.  These SMB’s are still having trouble getting credit.  They are holding on to their cash.  There are afraid to hire much if at all.  And hence they are going to carefully spend whatever advertising dollars they have.

Because Yellow Pages has a viable, trackable ROI, it should remain a primary advertising media for most small businesses.  Bundle in some online/IYP and mobile components and you have a very powerful, cost efficient media plan.  Businesses will see that if the industry continues to focus on the value it brings in its discussions with these businesses, and not just launch into Monty Hall let’s-make-a-deal type pricing that some publishers have gone to.  Then, maybe then, we’ll see that top line sales result start to turn the other way.

Yellow Book – New Campaign Rolled Out – “Beyond Yellow”

Yellow Book USA today announced the launch of its new advertising campaign “Beyond Yellow”. This effort is suppose to show how small businesses are leveraging the company’s Yellowbook360 suite of products and services, to help grow their businesses.

The campaign developed by Gotham Inc. will run nationally in TV, print, radio, mobile and digital banners featuring local business clients who’ve have used Yellow Book’s products and services such as online ads/video, website packages, search marketing, and direct mail.

The company CEO Joe Walsh noted that “…today, with so many ways to search, the business owner’s job has become more complicated and they’re turning to us for help…”

Marty Orzio, chief creative officer at Gotham was left to comment that “…I believe the way we’ve executed this idea will certainly attract the small and mid-sized business owner seeking confidence, clarity and growth.”

Our take:

So where’s the print??  It is exciting to have anyone in the industry tout the benefits the industry brings to small/midsized businesses who are trying to sort through the many options they have available to them and make the best decision they can with what limited money they can allocate to advertising during these tight economic times.  But it’s a little disappointed that the print products, which still yield the vast majority of the company’s revenue, and continue to provide top value to their users and advertisers, only gets an “oh yeah, we do that too” kind of mention.

Perception is becoming reality for the industry.  Maybe this is what Yellow Book wants???