Tag Archives: online yellow pages

It’s all about being “green”, especially when it’s for a profit

We’re all for entrepreneurial efforts here at YP Talk.  Heck, that’s how YP Talk got started.  But have you noticed how some new efforts have been started under the banner of supposedly being eco-friendly, environment saving efforts, all for the good of mankind and the planet, but then on a second look, are really just leveraging the “green” wave to make a “green” buck?

Case in point –Yellow Pages Directory, Inc. which owns the “Yellow Pages Goes Green” website on which it says it “…has been doing its part by providing consumers with an earth-friendly alternative to bulky, wasteful, landfill-clogging yellow pages books.”  The company has now taken another bold leap
forward for the environment to “…fulfilling its mission to eliminate the unsolicited delivery of yellow and white pages books” by acquiring the PaperlessPetition.org site.  So let me see if I have this right — they
want to rid the world of printed phonebooks so people will be forced to use
their online product.  Hmmm.  Sounds like a gallant environmental
effort.  Or is it?

For those not familiar with PaperlessPetition.org here is what we reported in
August of 2009
about this effort:

…in 2006 a new effort called the “Paperless Petition“, was started to supposedly provide consumers with an opt-out option for printed Yellow Pages products. Sounds like a very noble effort doesn’t it?

But here is the rub:

  •  I’ve tried several times to contact its creator and have yet to get a single response back.
  •  The comments on the site are more than a little dated (2006 dates on quotes)
  •  And here’s the best  — I have yet to find a single publisher or industry association that has ever received any communication from this group/site/person. No one. Nada.
    Zilch. Zero.

Yet despite these discrepancies, other bloggers/sites continue to suggest this site if you don’t want a print product delivered to your doorstep. So what has its owner been doing with all the information that people have provided when they sign up for
the petition
??

Well now know what they are doing with that data – the new owner, Yellow Pages Directory, has built an IYP site that has nearly 28 million
business listings (supposedly) and I’m not really sure what that has to do with being more eco-friendly.

But the hypocrisy doesn’t just stop there.  Now they have issued this press
release:

“….joining forces with the Green Chamber of Commerce in spearheading a Call to Action to promote conservation and eliminate the unnecessary waste inherent in the production and distribution of printed yellow pages books. Yellow Pages Goes Green urges governmental leaders in villages, towns, counties and cities across the United States to join us in furthering the Green movement and preserving our environment by sponsoring local legislation requiring that publishers of printed yellow directories be subject to opt-in or, at the very least, opt-out requirements…”

I don’t know about you but I’m going to sleep much better tonight knowing we have another group out there crusading to rid the world of print yellow pages books which we recently reported are being used by 7 out of 10 adults each year.  To help preserve the world against the impact of print yellow pages, the supposed solution from Yellow Pages Directory, the Internet, is what’s actually killing the planet – link to the full article.

Maybe the “green” effort they are talking about is the green color of money….

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YPA Conference Summary

At a time when a significant number of the industry’s top publishers are struggling financially, a slew of municipalities are pushing required opt-on/opt-out legislation for the printed products, and a substantial economic downturn/weak recovery has small businesses keeping a tight grip on their advertising expenditures, one would expect the annual industry conference from the Yellow Pages Association to be a somber gathering with lots of doom and gloom.  Yet, that wasn’t the case at the April 15th – 19th event held in Las Vegas.  It was certainly not an overly exuberant crowd of about 375 attendees, but one that overall was more optimistic than those who attended last year’s event.

Association Name Change

First, the association has made a bold move to rebrand itself as the “Local Search Association,” Association President Neg Norton indicated that the name change has been under consideration for some time and that “no one on the board [of Directors] thought we should keep doing what we are doing.” The association’s press release noted that:

The Local Search Association represents the best local search marketers in the world. We will continue to serve our long-time Yellow Pages members as well as the ever-expanding universe of companies that connect local buyers and sellers through digital advertising, social networking and mobile platforms.  

The obvious question is whether the name change is purely cosmetic, or does it truly represent a real shift in the association’s mission, and why.  The association is rumored to be after some name players such as Microsoft and Google.  The association’s press release provided some other insights on the name change: 

In the past decade, our industry has evolved from a coalition of companies that publish print directories into a collective group of integrated local search hubs – both in print and online. Because we’re expanding on our original mission of serving Yellow Pages publishers, the Local Search Association is pleased to have these new members – CityGrid, MerchEngine, Kudzu, Telnic Limited, Kenshoo, Thrive Analytics, deCarta, dotMobi, VendAsta Technologies and NO PROBLEM, because they face many of the same opportunities and challenges as our traditional member base.

Given that recent association research indicated that while nearly 70% of US adults still use the printed version of the Yellow Pages directories on a regular basis, the Internet and fast growing mobile web are certainly drawing increased usage. As a result, the association thought the time had come for a re-focusing of sorts that presents the Yellow Pages as more than just print and a readily available online local search tool.

Joe Walsh, the President/CEO of Yellow Book, and now the new association board chairman (who would have thought that would have happened just 5 years ago) commented that “our new brand reflects the transformation of Yellow Pages companies into integrated marketing and local search solutions providers, and better positions us to attract new members.”

Marc Tellier – YPG – “At the apex of transformation”

Among other notable presentations at the conference, one of particular interest was a discussion with Yellow Pages Group CEO Marc Tellier.  He said the “the next three years will bring more change for the Yellow Pages industry than the past three.”  Given the rocky performance of the industry during this extended economic downturn, such a predication was sure to make more than a few attendees uncomfortable.  Other comments from Tellier included:

  • That small/midsize businesses (SMB’s) are an “overwhelmed and underserved” group.
  • When he started some ten plus years ago, 51% of sales force contacts were premise/face to face. Today, that has increased to 76%
  • Based on the full suite of products YPG is selling, the potential market for YPG in Canada is four times that of just the traditional Yellow Pages market
  • The CMR segment needs to consolidate. Leading CMRs have “invested in research and product knowledge, while small CMR shops often do not.”  (The recent implosion of the largest CMR – TMP, was a hot topic in the hallways at the conference)
  • Investment is critical, that YPG has been more aggressive than other directory organizations. And bucking the trend of many publishers, that outsourcing is not his preferred route.

Neg Norton – Association President – A busy time at Association

In Norton’s presentation, he provided a number of compelling stats on changes in the local advertising marketplace:

  • Mobile advertising will grow from 15% of the online advertising market to more than 60% in 2015 (Borrell Associates).
  • Nearly half of SMBs report using Facebook for their business (BIA/Kelsey research), and another 19% use Twitter.
  • Social networking sites now account for more than one-third of all online display ad impressions according to Comscore.
  • More than a third of SMBs increased their use of links and ads on social media sites over the past year, and nearly half planned further increases over the next year
  • And when you add all of that up, of most importance to the industry — 56% of small businesses who will spend on search or social media advertising in 2011 will need help with some aspect of the campaigns (American Express)

No one can deny the statistics Norton covered on the growing use of mobile products:

  • GPS capable handsets grew 16% year over year and now represent 73% of total US mobile users.
  • Smart phones grew 54% and now reflect 28% of total US mobile users.
  • Nearly 70 million people in the U.S. owned smart phones in February 2011 an increase of 13% from the preceding 3 month period.

While these are alarming changes, Norton noted that all of these changes represent a tremendous growth opportunity for the industry.  Norton also provided a status on the usage of Yellow Pages:

  • In 2010, print and internet yellow pages together generated 16.6 billion searches versus 16.9 billion in 2009, a reduction of less than 2%  
  • Print Yellow Pages usage declined 8% from 12 to 11 billion in 2010
  • IYP searches increased 15% to 5.6 billion.
  • The average IYP searcher conducted 4.9 searches during December 2010, a 12% increase from a year earlier

New Board of Directors:

The conference also brought the election of a new board of directors for the Association.  Elected publisher representatives include:   

  • Peter McDonald, SuperMedia
  • Scott Brubaker, Berry
  • Jose Gutierrez, AT&T
  • Alfred Mockett, Dex One
  • Joe Walsh, Yellowbook.
  • Marc Tellier, Yellow Pages Group – International Director

CMR representatives are:

  • Chris Cummings, Marquette Group
  • Norm Hagarty, DAC Group
  • Sharon Sweeney, Fairway Group  
  • Kathleen Decaire-Aden, SMG Directory Marketing

Bill Dinan of Telmetrics is the Associates board representative.

Environment:

Environmental issues continue to be a big item on the Associations agenda.  Norton talked more about efforts in San Francisco, to stop new opt-in legislation.  The Association was joined in a unique coalition fighting effort by groups such as Valley Yellow Pages, AT&T, Seccion Amarilla, the IBEW labor union, The Utility Reform Network, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, ADP association, Chinese Yellow Pages, Rainbow Pages, and other local consumer advocate and business groups.

 Norton highlighted industry successes in recycling rates.  Last year, according to the EPA, directory recycling rates improved from 22% to 35%.   This represents a dramatic shift in both source reduction and recycling rates. 

In our next article, we will cover presentations from other speakers, what we found at the conference from the industry suppliers, and those companies recognized in the annual Industry Excellence Awards.  Stay tuned.

Another “phone book is dead” prediction

A group called Ron Sachs Communications based in Tallahassee, FL, recently issued a press release with a “stunning” national poll, that “…more than 60 percent of Americans identify the phone book as an increasingly irrelevant source for finding local telephone numbers…” As a result “…its future looks bleak as its obsolescence increases among younger Americans…”

I wish I had a nickel for all these predictions over the last 10+ years.  I’d have more money than Donald Trump…  This poll was supposedly conducted with  1,100 adults as part of another piece of research, but the company offers no insight on how the poll was conducted or the questions used.

Netherless, in the spirit of the recent holiday season, for some ongoing jollies, let’s look at some of their studies findings:

  • Nearly 8 out of 10 people 18-29 years old have no use for the phone book => one of my favorites.  And is that the demographics served by most businesses??  I don’t think so.  How many of you had much money to spend at that age to begin with??  How many of you went thru any of the “life events” which we know drive usage of the print yellow pages during that age??
  • Nearly one quarter of Americans discard their phone books immediately with one third of Americans under the age of 45 reporting they immediately throw away their phone books when delivered to their door => even if these stats are correct, that means 75% of homes keep the books, or for those under 45, 2/3rds have it??  If we compared that to TV viewship, radio, magazines, or any other creative media, what results do you think we’d get there?  Yet businesses continue to toss billions in advertising into each of these media despite their questionable ROI.
  • Nearly half of all respondents expect to use their phone book either much less or not at all in 5 years => Can anyone tell me what the media world will look like in 5 years?  Which devices will we have?  How fast and complete will the internet be?  What’s next after the Internet?  Can you answer any of these even just 3 years out?? How about 2 years?  Businesses advertise in the print yellow pages because they are looking for results NOW, not what may or may not happen in 5 years.  Let the study creator suggests that “…the phone book is on life support and local businesses should expect its death to officially occur some time in the next few years,”.  Bully for you.  I’m glad your crystal ball is that good.  But the reality is that local businesses are only worried about how the next 6 months are going to be for them.

There is no doubt that usage of the print yellow pages is down from what it once was.  We have so many other ways and methods to obtain information these days.  But to suggest that print is dead right now is completely silly.  And even if it was, how does Mr. Sachs think all that stuff about local businesses is going to make to the Internet or our wireless devices??  By osmosis??  No other industry is better positioned to work with small and mid-sized business to help them realize the potential of these many new digital platforms.

No, print isn’t going away tomorrow.  But if, and when its overall usage does drop off, the industry will be ready to help its clients continue to link buyers to those sellers.

Tech Talk – How will new electronic gadgets impact Yellow Pages print usage?

A recent Pew Internet & American Life bimonthly report – Americans and their gadgets provided some interesting stats on how the “digital” world has exploded far beyond the traditional PC desktop and is now showing some significant impact to many industry segments.  But will it also impact print Yellow Pages?

The pace of adoption of new, lower cost tech toys into everyday life is certainly startling.  No long are the hot new toys only available to just the tech geeks.  The average consumer has a dizzying array of devices they can now choose from which offer the “anytime, anywhere” access to news, information, friends, and entertainment.

Some of the key findings were:

  • 85% of Americans now own a cell phone. Cell phone ownership rates among young adults (18-29 year olds) has now reached an eye popping 96%.  For this demographic, mobile phones have almost become a “necessity” of modern communications.  How did we use to survive without them?
  • 76% of Americans own either a desktop or a laptop computer. Since 2006, laptop ownership has grown dramatically (from 30% to 52%) while desktop ownership has declined some.
  • Just under half of American adults (47%) own an mp3 player such as an iPod, an exponential five-fold increase from the 11% who owned this type of device in early 2005.
  • E-book readers (such as the Kindle) and tablet computers (such as the iPad) — the hottest new toys are still relatively new arrivals to the consumer technology scene and are owned by a relatively modest number of Americans.  Expect that to change after this upcoming holiday season.
  • Adding it all up, eight in ten American adults (78%) own two or more of these devices.

So where does all this leave the Yellow Page industry?

First and foremost, who is going to work with small businesses to recast their advertising messages onto these new media? Obviously their traditional advertising programs will need to be modified, updated, and resized to work in each of these different digital worlds. Publishers clearly understand this need as they have begun to reposition their sales teams as true multimedia consultants who were delivering leads to the doorstep of the advertiser and asked they not be as focused on what the platform is.

Secondly several publishers have indicated that despite the perception that the print product usage is rapidly declining in larger metro areas, call tracking volumes continue to go up. This isn’t possible if people aren’t using the print books.  Print is NOT dead, and won’t be for a long, long time.

Clearly we are headed towards a more diversified digital world with the advancements now available across a wide range of technology. For these new platforms to succeed robust, informative, and accurate content will be needed. When it comes to small and midsize business advertising, the yellow page industry is ideally positioned to be the supporting provider across all of these platforms whenever they are ready for local advertising information.