Seat Pagine Gialle: An Overview of Their New Strategic Plan

PagineGialle_LOGO

Last Friday, the exec team at [praized subtype=”small” pid=”7a4e7f1586dc54f8f2f5f0da536a084d” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] presented their 2009-2011 plan to financial analysts. I just read through the presentation and here are the interesting highlights:

2008 Overview:

  • Difficult year 2008 for the group (total revenues are down 4.8%) but they met their ebitda guidance (nonetheless down 6.6%)
  • In Italy, print revenues were down 1.1% but online revenues were up 18.4%. Online revenues represent more than 15% of all Italian revenues.
  • Interestingly, Seat experienced explosive online revenue growth (+27%) in Q3 and Q4 2008 because of new Internet offers launched in September. I believe those new products are priority placement and SEO/SEM offers (see slide 10 of this presentation).
  • Online product gross margins (72%) are almost as high as print margins (75%)

Usage and advertiser data:

  • 22M print users
  • 11M online users
  • 500M look-ups per year (print & online)
  • 500,000 advertisers

Ongoing strategy:

  • Their main strategy: “Invest in the Italian core business and protect Seat’s strong cash flow generation to position the Group for successful refinancing of debt in 2011”. It could be summed up as “Italy and Online” + “International assets not core”.
  • 2011: they expect Internet revenues to be higher than 25% of total revenues
  • Online usage will be driven by improved functionalities, SEO and branding
  • Online revenues will grow through product innovation and new salespeople
  • Move to pay-for-performance in their voice product
Advertisements

Yelp's Monetization Strategy

Big fracas in the local social media space today with the publication of a long anti-[praized subtype=”small” pid=”ef0b9b94446693e82f569cf40375566a” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] article, “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0”, in the East Bay Express. Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO, has many issue with the article and answers on the company blog. You can read Greg Sterling’s analysis on the whole situation here.

What I found interesting in the East Bay Express article is the description of the package Yelp is selling to small merchants.  According to an e-mail sales pitch that was forwarded to the journalist, advertisers receive the following:

  1. Advertisers “can highlight a favorite review to appear at the top of the page about their business.”
  2. “They also show up first in search results for similar businesses in their region (for example “coffee” near “Alameda, CA”).”
  3. “Ads for that business appear on the page of local competitors, while competitors’ ads do not appear on their page.”
  4. “Owners can post photo slideshows, add a “personal message” about their business, and have the ability to update info on special offers and events.”
  5. They also can find out how many users visit their web site, update their page, contact Yelpers who’ve reviewed their business, and have access to an account manager who will help “maximize” their experience with Yelp.”

You can see some of that info on the Business Owner section of Yelp.com.

What it means: people often ask me how you can monetize social media in a local search context.  Yelp seems to have found a combo of items that could be attractive to merchants in such a context. Ranking a review, appearing as a “related merchant”, the ability to upload additional content, and some tracking and reporting appears like an interesting social media ad bundle.  Does this package monetize as well as the traditional “advertiser ranking” model we find in many local search sites?  I don’t think so, but it’s the delicate balance between users and advertisers’ needs that Yelp is trying to maintain.  Not easy!

Yelp's Monetization Strategy

Big fracas in the local social media space today with the publication of a long anti-[praized subtype=”small” pid=”ef0b9b94446693e82f569cf40375566a” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] article, “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0”, in the East Bay Express. Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO, has many issue with the article and answers on the company blog. You can read Greg Sterling’s analysis on the whole situation here.

What I found interesting in the East Bay Express article is the description of the package Yelp is selling to small merchants.  According to an e-mail sales pitch that was forwarded to the journalist, advertisers receive the following:

  1. Advertisers “can highlight a favorite review to appear at the top of the page about their business.”
  2. “They also show up first in search results for similar businesses in their region (for example “coffee” near “Alameda, CA”).”
  3. “Ads for that business appear on the page of local competitors, while competitors’ ads do not appear on their page.”
  4. “Owners can post photo slideshows, add a “personal message” about their business, and have the ability to update info on special offers and events.”
  5. They also can find out how many users visit their web site, update their page, contact Yelpers who’ve reviewed their business, and have access to an account manager who will help “maximize” their experience with Yelp.”

You can see some of that info on the Business Owner section of Yelp.com.

What it means: people often ask me how you can monetize social media in a local search context.  Yelp seems to have found a combo of items that could be attractive to merchants in such a context. Ranking a review, appearing as a “related merchant”, the ability to upload additional content, and some tracking and reporting appears like an interesting social media ad bundle.  Does this package monetize as well as the traditional “advertiser ranking” model we find in many local search sites?  I don’t think so, but it’s the delicate balance between users and advertisers’ needs that Yelp is trying to maintain.  Not easy!

ReachLocal Opening Sales Office in Toronto

ReachLocal logo

I’ve heard from a well-informed source that ReachLocal is opening a sales office in Toronto, to better serve the Canadian market. I was able to confirm it when I found these employment ads. Steven Woods, senior recruter at ReachLocal, posted the ads. ReachLocal is a well-funded local search engine marketing firm. According to the Kelsey Group blog, their latest funding round ($55M in October 2007) will be used “to continue the company’s rapid expansion both in the U.S. and overseas, and for technology. In the past 12 months alone, ReachLocal has opened 11 sales offices in the top 10 DMAs. It expects to open a top-down DMA rollout in one market per month throughout 2008 and 2009. The company now claims to have “several hundred ad sales reps.” It sells for most of the local portal and sales engine leaders, including Yahoo!, Google, MSN, AOL and Superpages.com.”

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.

Do Not Underestimate Directory Publishers

John over at the Kelsey Group blog has an interesting post entitled “Why Internet Yellow Pages Can Compete for Local Search”. He explains why The Kelsey group predicts that revenues at local search sites linked to a print directory publisher (so-called IYP in the US) will grow faster than general local search over the next few years.

  1. The sales force. It is getting better and better at selling online products
  2. Improved overall online offering (user experience, products, marketing)
  3. Residential search. Possibly the under-exploited killer app for directory publishers (think social networking).
  4. Structured results. The web is embracing more and more taxonomy and folksonomy. Directory publishers are experts at structured data.
  5. Mobile search. Local will explode through mobile and let’s not forget the informal ties that bind telcos with their former print directory friends.

What it means: do not underestimate the resilience and strength of the directory publishers ecosystem. It might take longer to innovate and follow competition but they have assets that can’t easily be replicated. This also means that the ecosystem is also very interesting from a business opportunity perspective. Publishers need help and will welcome companies who can help them compete online.

Can the Power of Micro-Blogging Save Business 2.0 Magazine?

I read with great dismay this morning the possible demise of one of my favorite magazines, Business 2.0 .

According to the New York Times article, even though the magazine has a circulation of 623,000, there’s a couple reasons why this might happen:

Aside from the overall downturn in the magazine business, current and former Time Inc. employees point to what appears to have been an ill-advised move this year to combine the advertising sales teams of Time Inc.’s finance and business publications, which include Fortune, Money, CNNMoney.com, Fortune Small Business and Business 2.0. Consolidated under a single banner, Time Inc.’s Business and Finance Network (or Tibfin, as it is known inside the company), Time sales representatives stopped pitching the distinct appeal and audience of Business 2.0 to focus on the larger titles like Fortune. That often turned Business 2.0 into an afterthought; big advertisers like Microsoft and Intel were offered discounts on other Time Inc. business titles if they would also buy pages in Business 2.0.

I’ve been a reader for many years and even though I read multiple blogs and online news sources daily, I always find interesting stuff in the magazine. It also helps me synthesize what I’ve read on the Web in the last few months. I’ve also found it’s a great media vehicle to introduce non-web business people to new web initiatives.

I then posted a short status update in my Facebook micro-blogging feed that said “Sebastien is sad to think Business 2.0 magazine might fold in September…

45 minutes later, I get an e-mail from one of my new “friends”, Colin Carmichael, who’s inviting me to a new group he’s created to save Business 2.0. He told me I had tipped him off to the demise of Business 2.0 and he wanted to do something. I obviously joined the group and invite you to do the same if you like the magazine.

What it means: it’s my first opportunity to experience first-hand the power of micro-blogging, those small atoms of information written in new communication tools like Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and Facebook (via the status update section). Very powerful tools. On another note, I believe print magazine usage growth (and by extension revenue growth) will come from specializing, not becoming more generalist. By consolidating their sales force, publishers run the risk of abandoning their specialty titles and future growth. The same debate takes place all the time in the directory business. Should publishers use a different sales force for Internet products or for vertical publications? I think you need to take a good look at where you think your growth will come from in the future and support adequately those initiatives.