Did Superpages’ Early Price Skimming Strategy Hurt Their Current Online Growth?

Online business highlights from [praized subtype=”small” pid=”2bc67fd4fc5e5f4c5d9bb21407657a4729″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]’s Q3 results conference call (from Seeking Alpha)

Revenues:

We reported year-to-date Internet revenue of 223 million, a 6.2% increase compared to the same period in 2007. we reported Internet revenue of 75 million in the third quarter, which is an 8.7% increase compared to the same period in 2007. With respect to Internet revenue, we indicated on our last call that we anticipated getting to double digit growth in the third quarter. With growth of about 9%, we didn’t quite get to that level as the transition from fixed-fee advertising to performance-based advertising products continued.

On the sales reorganization:

The new sales organization consists of 15 geographic regions plus a dedicated internet team.

On their online exec team:

Briggs Ferguson, a former [praized subtype=”small” pid=”c6512f599b9a1b7e6a250deaf060b9fdcf” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] executive, who joined Idearc in April, continues as President of our Internet Business. Briggs’ focus is on executing Idearc’s complete digital strategy as rapidly as possible.

On product penetration:

In addition of the 800,000 clients we have, over 90% of the existing clients are print clients, less than one-fourth are Internet clients

On SEO successes:

In the search engine optimization arena we have seen a 32% increase in SEO traffic to Superpages.com translating to 11 million new page views. We have optimized business profiles for search engines an increase unique visitors by 213%

What it means: reading the whole transcript from Idearc’s Q3 results, I’m struck by the low growth percentage in their online business. According to the latest [praized subtype=”small” pid=”230b2717220fa8377d38b6934a47690022″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] Internet Advertising Revenue Report, online ad revenues in the first half of 2008 were up 15.2% versus the same period last year and search revenues were up 24%. If I remember correctly, Superpages had a price skimming strategy 5-7 years ago.  This means that they quickly grew their online revenues with high-priced online products (web sites, priority placement, etc.) but on a lower amount of customers (smaller penetration). I think that this strategy might have made them vulnerable to the increasing use of online advertising by SMEs. They now need to convince their online non-ads to take the plunge with them.  I think performance-based products serves that purpose but growth might not come as quickly as with fixed-fee products.

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