Global Yellow Pages: Entering the "Presence, Performance, Permanence" Era

This is a post about the Kelsey Group’s DMS ’09 conference which happened last week in Orlando.

In a presentation titled “Global Yellow Pages: A Prescription for Future Success”, Charles Laughlin and Neal Polachek from BIA/Kelsey (the new name of The Kelsey Group) exposed important trends and offered a new way to look at the future for directory publishers.

Current trends:

  • Over time, print Yellow Pages usage (as an advertising vehicle) is down for SMBs
  • Advertiser volume (i.e. the total number of advertisers with a relationship to a directory publisher) is decreasing
  • Average average revenue per advertiser (ARPA) is up (i.e. squeezing more money out of current advertisers) but EBITDA margins are down
  • Share of revenue coming from online products is up (10% of total directory publishers revenue in North America, 25% in Europe)

Future trends:

  • Publishers will sell leads instead of products (i.e. need to move away from print/online nomenclature)
  • The business model will evolve (blends traditional and performance-based advertising + fee-based services)
  • There will certainly be a change in the publishers’ cost structure (when revenues go down, margins go down also)
  • We will see a changing sales force (training, recruitment, smaller channels, outsourcing)
  • We will see a changing core print product (more local, more vertical, smaller, less categories)

Neal then exposed what I think is a revolutionary new way of seeing the world and coined a new era for the Yellow Pages business: ” Presence, Performance, Permanence”

Kelsey BIA Presence Performance Permanence

“Presence” is defined as “Be found”. It’s usually fee-based. It includes product like signage, listings, print, banners, search/SEO, digital outdoor, door hangers, radio, cable TV and mobile TV. I think we could also include things like website building, Facebook & Twitter profile management, etc.

“Performance” is all about driving leads. It’s performance-base and includes clicks, calls, forms submitted, store visits, inquiries, etc. It could also include coupons exchanged.

“Permanence” is to help the advertiser retain customers. This works on a fee for service business model and includes ratings, reviews, online reputation management, online booking, customer reminders, customer updates, retention strategies, telephone training, etc.

The list of business opportunities Neal presented was certainly not exhaustive but I like how this model helps organize product initiatives under large umbrellas. I also like the fact that social media is now part of the overall Yellow Pages strategy via things like ratings, reviews and reputation management. The whole industry seems to be waking up to the disruptive power (opportunity and threat!) of social media I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg there.

The Kelsey Group's Directional Media Strategies '09 Conference Preview

In less than 6 weeks, many decision makers from the Yellow Pages industry and other directional media companies will be attending the next Kelsey Group conference called Directional Media Strategies ’09.  Two of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] analysts (Charles Laughlin and Matt Booth) organized a preview web conference yesterday to explain the “meta-themes” of the conference. They are:

  1. Embracing accountability (for example, with print pay-for-perfomance ads)
  2. Transforming the sales channel (becoming multi-product, digital and explicitly performance-based, sales training needs with those changes)
  3. Reinventing the business model ( every aspects of the Yellow Pages business model is under scrutiny, 12-month cycles, etc.)

The session became very interactive when Charles asked the attendees (more than 100) to vote on three different statements.

The first one, “In 5 years, what percentage of total directory revenue will be generated by performance-based advertising programs?”, produced some interesting results. 35% think that between 25% and 50% of total directory revenues (print and online) will be performance-based. That’s what I think as well. It will be a combo of preserving current advertisers with some advertiser gain as well.

webinar-poll-01

The second question, “in 5 years, what percentage of directory advertisers will be handled entirely by an automated/self-service sales channel?”, also produced some interesting results. 37% think that it will be “between 10% and 25%”. I’m not a big believer in self-service in the short/medium term. I think it will be “less than 10%”.

webinar-poll-02

The third question, “In 5 years, what percentage of large metro print directories will be produced in a size similar to that of a mini or companion?”, did not produce a clear winner. For my readers not in the industry, mini or companion directories (also called neighborhood directories in Canada) are smaller, more geo-focused print directories. Based on my personal experience, I always feel my neighborhood directory is always more relevant than the big Montreal-East book and when I use a print directory, I usually use the neighborhood edition. I think publishers will have no choice but to embrace this new format/model. I voted for “between 50% and 75%”.

webinar-poll-03

The conference is being held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] in Orlando. You can register here.

I will be attending the conference. If you want to meet, make sure we connect by e-mail (sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com) beforehand to schedule some quality time.

The Kelsey Group's Directional Media Strategies '09 Conference Preview

In less than 6 weeks, many decision makers from the Yellow Pages industry and other directional media companies will be attending the next Kelsey Group conference called Directional Media Strategies ’09.  Two of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”66afa9c1b5e4cd2f613f200ec61d955d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] analysts (Charles Laughlin and Matt Booth) organized a preview web conference yesterday to explain the “meta-themes” of the conference. They are:

  1. Embracing accountability (for example, with print pay-for-perfomance ads)
  2. Transforming the sales channel (becoming multi-product, digital and explicitly performance-based, sales training needs with those changes)
  3. Reinventing the business model ( every aspects of the Yellow Pages business model is under scrutiny, 12-month cycles, etc.)

The session became very interactive when Charles asked the attendees (more than 100) to vote on three different statements.

The first one, “In 5 years, what percentage of total directory revenue will be generated by performance-based advertising programs?”, produced some interesting results. 35% think that between 25% and 50% of total directory revenues (print and online) will be performance-based. That’s what I think as well. It will be a combo of preserving current advertisers with some advertiser gain as well.

webinar-poll-01

The second question, “in 5 years, what percentage of directory advertisers will be handled entirely by an automated/self-service sales channel?”, also produced some interesting results. 37% think that it will be “between 10% and 25%”. I’m not a big believer in self-service in the short/medium term. I think it will be “less than 10%”.

webinar-poll-02

The third question, “In 5 years, what percentage of large metro print directories will be produced in a size similar to that of a mini or companion?”, did not produce a clear winner. For my readers not in the industry, mini or companion directories (also called neighborhood directories in Canada) are smaller, more geo-focused print directories. Based on my personal experience, I always feel my neighborhood directory is always more relevant than the big Montreal-East book and when I use a print directory, I usually use the neighborhood edition. I think publishers will have no choice but to embrace this new format/model. I voted for “between 50% and 75%”.

webinar-poll-03

The conference is being held at the [praized subtype=”small” pid=”79b0fad769b11f4b8998b682a0374edd7f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] in Orlando. You can register here.

I will be attending the conference. If you want to meet, make sure we connect by e-mail (sprovencher AT praizedmedia.com) beforehand to schedule some quality time.

Where Will We Be In Five Years?

Mike Boland over at The Kelsey Group’s blog posted highlights of the “The Change Imperative” panel in which I was a participant. I was joined by Geoff Avard, GM, Strategy, Sensis, Perry Evans, President, CEO, Local Matters and Ken Ray, CMO, AT&T Publishing & Advertising.  Every question asked by Charles Laughlin and Neal Polachek started with “In five years, …” and all statements were designed to get a reaction out of the panelists and the attendees.

Examples included:

  • In five years, SEM bid pressure will rise to the point that advertisers will see more value in print advertising.
  • In five years, small businesses will use self service online advertising like AdWords to a much greater degree.
  • In five years, Like many of the rumors that continue to circulate, Google will have bought a yellow pages publisher to gain a direct local sales channel.
  • In five years, no one under 30 will be using the yellow pages.
  • In five years, more listings will be accessed by mobile than on the PC.
  • In five years, what will follow the iPhone as the next big thing?
  • In five years, where will you be?

You can see of our answers in the Kelsey Group blog including the one related to where I think I will be in five years…

Charles Laughlin: State of the Yellow Pages Nation & Predictions

Continuing Charles Laughlin’s kick-off presentation at the Kelsey Group DMS ’08 conference, he gave a state of the Yellow Pages nation.

Where are we today?

  1. Print revenues are declining – in most places – with pace accelerating (US, most of Europe, exception: Australia, Canada, Yellow Book in the US)
  2. Belief in product eroding in many areas – including among many within the industry
  3. Economy is a factor – but long-term shift also at play
  4. Many publishers are successfully making the single product – multi-product transition
  5. Other publishers risk long term viability by not making the shift quickly enough.

What will the winners do?

  1. Measure everything and embrace transparency
  2. Invest in sales transformation
  3. Leverage technology to enable transformation
  4. Recognize and protect core assets
  5. Ruthlessly shed the rest
  6. Continue to invest and believe in print

Predictions (by 2013)

  1. US print titles circulation will decline by 30%
  2. Printed residential white pages reduced to minimal on-request print run
  3. At least one global publisher divests its print Yellow Pages business
  4. Professional services advertisers will have largely shifted from print to online
  5. Print revenues in home services advertisers (ex: plumbers) will remain stable
  6. Self-provisioning will account for 25% of directional media sales

More on the Kelsey Group blog.

Charles Laughlin: State of the Yellow Pages Nation & Predictions

Continuing Charles Laughlin’s kick-off presentation at the Kelsey Group DMS ’08 conference, he gave a state of the Yellow Pages nation.

Where are we today?

  1. Print revenues are declining – in most places – with pace accelerating (US, most of Europe, exception: Australia, Canada, Yellow Book in the US)
  2. Belief in product eroding in many areas – including among many within the industry
  3. Economy is a factor – but long-term shift also at play
  4. Many publishers are successfully making the single product – multi-product transition
  5. Other publishers risk long term viability by not making the shift quickly enough.

What will the winners do?

  1. Measure everything and embrace transparency
  2. Invest in sales transformation
  3. Leverage technology to enable transformation
  4. Recognize and protect core assets
  5. Ruthlessly shed the rest
  6. Continue to invest and believe in print

Predictions (by 2013)

  1. US print titles circulation will decline by 30%
  2. Printed residential white pages reduced to minimal on-request print run
  3. At least one global publisher divests its print Yellow Pages business
  4. Professional services advertisers will have largely shifted from print to online
  5. Print revenues in home services advertisers (ex: plumbers) will remain stable
  6. Self-provisioning will account for 25% of directional media sales

More on the Kelsey Group blog.

Perception is Hurting the Yellow Pages Industry. Here's the Reality.

Great presentation by Charles Laughlin today at the Kelsey Group conference.  He presented the various perception issues that are currently plaguing the directory publishing industry and exposed the reality based on various data points.

Perception 1: the Yellow Pages medium is already dead, the corpse just does not know it yet.  Reality: as Yellow Pages transitions from single to multi-product, some will survive, some will not.

Perception 2: today, only luddites use the printed Yellow Pages.  Reality: they do but other uses it too, but not as frequently as they once did.

Perception 3: Yellow Pages is way too expensive.  Reality: the ROI on Yellow Pages remains very high vs. other media.

Perception 4: advertisers are better off dropping all print Yellow Pages in favor of more online ads, SEM, SEO.  Reality: depending on heading, it would be difficult to replace print Yellow Pages leads with any one source.

Perception 5: Yellow Pages is the media equivalent of a smoke-belching coal fired power plant.  Reality: title inflation has fueled this perception but Yellow Pages’ landfill contribution is still smaller than newspapers, diapers and magazines.

Update: Perry Evans (CEO of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”2b09598567e5ee9f95e9135ca5e4459d2f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]) has a survey on his blog related to this topic.

Perception is Hurting the Yellow Pages Industry. Here’s the Reality.

Great presentation by Charles Laughlin today at the Kelsey Group conference.  He presented the various perception issues that are currently plaguing the directory publishing industry and exposed the reality based on various data points.

Perception 1: the Yellow Pages medium is already dead, the corpse just does not know it yet.  Reality: as Yellow Pages transitions from single to multi-product, some will survive, some will not.

Perception 2: today, only luddites use the printed Yellow Pages.  Reality: they do but other uses it too, but not as frequently as they once did.

Perception 3: Yellow Pages is way too expensive.  Reality: the ROI on Yellow Pages remains very high vs. other media.

Perception 4: advertisers are better off dropping all print Yellow Pages in favor of more online ads, SEM, SEO.  Reality: depending on heading, it would be difficult to replace print Yellow Pages leads with any one source.

Perception 5: Yellow Pages is the media equivalent of a smoke-belching coal fired power plant.  Reality: title inflation has fueled this perception but Yellow Pages’ landfill contribution is still smaller than newspapers, diapers and magazines.

Update: Perry Evans (CEO of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”2b09598567e5ee9f95e9135ca5e4459d2f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]) has a survey on his blog related to this topic.

Perception is Hurting the Yellow Pages Industry. Here's the Reality.

Great presentation by Charles Laughlin today at the Kelsey Group conference.  He presented the various perception issues that are currently plaguing the directory publishing industry and exposed the reality based on various data points.

Perception 1: the Yellow Pages medium is already dead, the corpse just does not know it yet.  Reality: as Yellow Pages transitions from single to multi-product, some will survive, some will not.

Perception 2: today, only luddites use the printed Yellow Pages.  Reality: they do but other uses it too, but not as frequently as they once did.

Perception 3: Yellow Pages is way too expensive.  Reality: the ROI on Yellow Pages remains very high vs. other media.

Perception 4: advertisers are better off dropping all print Yellow Pages in favor of more online ads, SEM, SEO.  Reality: depending on heading, it would be difficult to replace print Yellow Pages leads with any one source.

Perception 5: Yellow Pages is the media equivalent of a smoke-belching coal fired power plant.  Reality: title inflation has fueled this perception but Yellow Pages’ landfill contribution is still smaller than newspapers, diapers and magazines.

Update: Perry Evans (CEO of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”2b09598567e5ee9f95e9135ca5e4459d2f” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]) has a survey on his blog related to this topic.

A Conversation with Patrick Marshall, YellowBook’s Chief New Media Officer

Pat Marshall has been in the online directory industry basically since it was created. In fact, when introducing him, John Kelsey and Charles Laughlin (both from the Kelsey Group) called him “the father of Internet Yellow Pages”. According to the press release announcing his Yellow Book nomination, ” Marshall has spent more than 28 years in marketing leadership positions, including as a senior executive with Verizon, Frontier Corporation and R. H. Donnelley. At Verizon, Marshall led the launch and management of SuperPages.com.” So, it was with great pleasure I sat down to listen to this conversation between the Kelsey Group folks and Pat Marshall.

Q: Why did you get back into the Internet yellow pages (IYP) business?

A: I did not want to get back in IYP, I wanted to get back into local search. I also wanted to get back into action (as opposed to the consulting I had been doing in the last few years)

Q: So, is Yellow Book in the local search business?

A: Today we’re more IYP than local search, but the trajectory is going towards local search. IYPs are really good at finding who but not good at finding what.

Q: What are the areas you need to move into to to go into local search?

A: Three things: 1) Infrastructure. Business directories are yearly things and this does not work in the local search world. 2) Traffic. a key directory publisher axiom: advertisers advertise because users use. You need a qualified audience and we’ve done well with that (see this Comscore release). 3) Having inventory. Present a merchant in a context that’s appropriate for him. We don’t have enough inventory today.

Q: Where are you now on a scale of 1 to 5?

A: We’re at 3. We’ve made a lot of progress but I would like to move at twice the current speed. As a senior executive, I need to create the environment where that can happen. We need to focus on the collective IQ.

Q: What are you doing to develop a local search solution supported by research?

A: When people are using local search, they’re not shopping. They’re hiring. You don’t shop for a pool service, a lawyer. You hire these people. The process is three dimensional: urgency, risk, satisfaction.

Q: Let’s talk about verticals. Would the IYP product be further ahead if verticals had been developed earlier and deeper?

A: I don’t think we would have been better off. The industry has gone through enormous changes to get to 2008. In 1995, sales forces were unidimensional. The first year of Superpages.com, we generated $100K in revenues. We missed our target and it was the first time in my life I missed my target. Sales was afraid to bring Internet in conversations because they were afraid merchants would know more than them.

Q: Where is the value in Yellow Book’s online offers? Is it search engine marketing, is it YellowBook.com?

A: It really depends what the customer wants. In some situation, they only want what we called “Googlecaine”. So, you should sell what people are buying.

Q: What kind of partnerships are you looking for?

A: Anyone that can help me solve my three problems listed above. 1) Infrastructure products/services that reduce our costs (but bring a business case), 2) traffic (we’re always interested but talk about the quality of the traffic and how it fits with us), and 3) advertising/inventory products (talk to us about why it’s good for our customers, what skin are you willing to put in the game).

Q: Is it important for Yellow Book that Google, Yahoo!, MSN be successful in local search?

A: Yes, definitely. I doubt that they will invest into a local channel. So, they will come to us to resell their products.