RHD Releases DexKnows iPhone App

I’m a bit late writing about this news (Greg Sterling wrote about it here and the Kelsey Group guys here) but RHD has just released a series of DexKnows mobile apps & services.  I recently had the opportunity to connect with Deborah Eldred, Director of Mobile at RHD, to discuss the new offer.

dexknows-mobile-apps

Highlights:

  • Developed by MobilePeople
  • Covers the whole mobile “value chain”: text messages, mobile browser version, downloadable client applications, iPhone application
  • They looked at ComScore data to focus development on the most important phone models/carriers
  • They developed a specific search “taxonomy” by looking at top categories in a mobile context. They also regrouped categories in three most-used metacategories called Gettin’ Grub (food & restaurants), Havin’ Fun (entertainment), Goin’ Places (travel)
  • Search results are ranked by centroid, currently the center of the city, but eventually the user geo-location

I asked Deborah how the Dexknows offer was differentiated from other offers out there. She mentioned the following:

  • Focused on relevant experience for mobile users (as opposed to advertiser-focused)
  • Most important mobile categories have been grouped and surfaced on the home page
  • People search (data provided by Whitepages.com)
  • RHD covers the whole mobile value chain, from text messages to iPhone app
  • They have great content in their in-region territory.

You can go to m.dexknows.com to use/download the various versions and a short video shows the various features.

Update: Yellow Pages Group in Canada has also released applications for the iPhone and Blackberry. Canpages had released an iPhone app about two weeks ago.

What it means: happy to see that directory publishers are releasing new mobile apps. Obviously, in the medium/long term, it is a critical component of the distribution mix. But I think, in the short term, it plays an important perceptual role with the sales team and advertisers.

CanPages.ca Introduces Its Own Street View Feature

According to CTV’s Chris Abel, CanPages.ca, the local search site of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”58d245fd7e8f20800dee0ecd3af21f08″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”], the independent Canadian directory publisher, has launched its own Street View feature. CanPages has partnered with San Francisco-based MapJack to deploy this technology in Canada.  Abel says it’s very similar to Google Street View but includes new features such as “a fullscreen mode and paths that explore pedestrian walkways as much as they do the streets ruled by cars and trucks.”

You can see it in searches in Vancouver, Whistler, or Squamish (all in British Columbia). As for future expansion, “the company plans to expand to include Street Views of Toronto and Montreal next, followed by as much of Canada as possible.”

Vancouver Street View Canpages

In the last few days, an ad for a video camera operator has appeared in a Quebec job site, making people think Google was going to capture Quebec City in Street View. It’s possible but I suspect it might be an ad for the first French Canadian street view deployment of CanPages.ca.

What it means: looking at the introduction of new features inside the CanPages.ca site in the last 6-12 months, it’s clear that the exec team there has identified feature gaps inside YellowPages.ca, the main property of Yellow Pages Group (and directory incumbent in Canada) and are trying to differentiate themselves via those new features. It’s a good strategic move. On the other side, YPG has a mapping agreement with Microsoft and I’m fairly certain the Redmond giant is also taking street view pictures (many people on Twitter have reported seeing the Microsoft vehicle taking pictures). This will certainly be easy for YPG to deploy once it’s available in Canada. As I reported a few weeks ago, the new DexKnows.com has a nice integration of Google Maps and Street View.

The Reports of Yellow Pages Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

My brain sometimes connects things that are seemingly unrelated.

Mark Twain House Hannibal

Flickr photo by km6xo

When I saw this news that Mark Twain’s boyhood home is on the front cover of the latest AT&T Real Yellow Pages directory for Hannibal, Missouri and I combined it with the great results Yellow Pages Group achieved in 2008, I was instantly reminded of the famous Mark Twain quote “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” and thought that the AT&T Yellow Pages team had chosen a perfect spokesperson for that specific book…

Yellow Pages Group Releases 2008 Yearly Results, Surprises Market

Yesterday, [praized subtype=”small” pid=”7ac08d444f37191c8a97699e6530751c” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] (YPG), Canada’s largest directory publisher, presented their Q4 2008 and 2008 yearly results. I think they surprised the market with better-than-expected financial results, especially in their directory operations. Total revenues for the whole company for the whole year were $1,696,713,000 million. Christian Paupe, YPG’s CFO, had three key messages:

1) Strong growth in the Directories category. “We continue to lead the industry both operationally and financially” said Marc Tellier, YPG’s CEO and President. Combined print and online revenues were up 3.5% for the year. For the full year, revenues in Directories reached $1,377 million and EBITDA was $822.8 million. EBITDA margins were 60.1% compared to 59.2% in 2007. An important indicator is print revenue growth/decrease. In Q4, print revenues were down 0.7% (Q3 was also down 0.5%) which gives them flat print revenue growth for the year.

YPG revenues

2) Trader, their Vertical Media business (i.e. classifieds), is definitely challenged by economic environment. Combined print and online revenues were down -1.8% for the year at $320.7 million.  2008 EBITDA was better with $108.2 million (an increase of 6.1%) due to “cost containment efforts”. Trader’s EBITDA margin in 2008 was 33.7% compared to 30.8% in 2007.

3) Their online organic revenue growth was very strong in 2008. Online revenues for Directories and Vertical Media combined increased to $246.8 million in 2008. This represents organic growth of 43.5%. Q4 online revenues in Vertical Media were up +60%.

YPG introduced two new noteworthy online products in 2008. The first is an improved version of their blockbuster Directory Plus product called Enhanced Directory Plus. It now includes Google Adwords. The second one, the Showcase Bundle, is a complete multimedia solution including a quarter column print ad, a bold alpha directory listing, our online video product Profile Plus and all the components of Enhanced Directory Plus.  The Profile Plus product allows them to collect key local content like brands offered and hours of operations.

A couple of slightly negative news:

  • Customer count was down to 405,000 (couldn’t find last year’s numbers).  Christian Paupe explained that they had tightened credit checks and taken a firmer stand on denied advertising (40% higher in this environment).
  • Online traffic measured in unique visitors was down in Q4 ’08 vs. Q4 ’07. Online reach was down from 42% in Q4 ’07 to 38% in Q4 ’08. This was caused by a change in  technology platform powering Canada411.ca and by lower traffic on AutoTrader.ca (less people shopping for cars in the current economic climate). Tellier did say YellowPages.ca, their core site, was up 15% for the year though, due to organic traffic growth.

YPG's UVs and online reach

Additional insights:

  • Tellier reports that current sales (January 2009) are in-line with their expectations. As expected, large urban markets are more challenging but they’re seeing more online growth there. He mentioned that they didn’t see any change in their very-high customer retention rate (above 90%)
  • There was some discussions around the re-scoping of the Toronto books (going from two to four books)
  • From a regional perspective, BC and Alberta are suffering while Quebec, Manitoba, and the Atlantic provinces are doing well
  • Anecdotally, Tellier said “competitive intensity is down” in all markets.
  • Tellier also disclosed that substitution from print and online was occuring at Trader but not in their Directories operations
  • Their Management’s Discussion and Analysis document states that ” During the last six months, we have observed a more cautious behaviour from advertisers due to the adverse economic conditions they are experiencing. We have in the past demonstrated our ability to sustain stable and consistent growth during economic downturns and as a result, our revenues continue to grow despite the protracted economic and market environment highlighting the resilient nature of our national directory platform.”

Yellow Pages Group to Introduce Print Opt-Out Mechanism

Yellow Pages Group, Canada’s biggest directory publisher, will introduce an opt-out mechanism for their print business directory in 2009. Quoted in this morning’s Metro newspaper, Annie Marsolais, Director of Communications at Yellow Pages Group, said they would launch the initiative “since some people have expressed the desire to stop receiving our directory” (translated from French). Details will be made available in the next few months. Opt-out mechanisms allow consumers to remove their address from print directory distributions.

Michael Olde­we­ning, Director of Marketing at Canpages, the second largest directory publisher in Canada, was also interviewed for the same article. He mentioned that people who didn’t want to receive their directory could always call them “but they did not receive many calls to that effect”

Finally, Jean-Pierre Gosselin, General Manager – Marketing at Mediapages, a recent player in the directory space backed by the powerful Quebecor Media empire, explained that “they were thinking of a strategy to bring back unwanted directories in the multiple Quebecor Media offices and stores”.

Attending the Kelsey Group’s DMS ’08 Conference in September

The Kelsey Group DMS 08

I will be attending The Kelsey Group’s DMS ’08 (formerly DDC2008) Conference in Atlanta on September 15, 16 and 17. As I’ve said again and again, DMS (or DDC) is a must for anyone following the directory publishing and local media industry. You can find more details here. My former big boss at Yellow Pages Group, Marc Tellier, is keynoting this year.

Anyone interested in meeting up, ping me! seb AT praized.com

Attending the Kelsey Group's DMS '08 Conference in September

The Kelsey Group DMS 08

I will be attending The Kelsey Group’s DMS ’08 (formerly DDC2008) Conference in Atlanta on September 15, 16 and 17. As I’ve said again and again, DMS (or DDC) is a must for anyone following the directory publishing and local media industry. You can find more details here. My former big boss at Yellow Pages Group, Marc Tellier, is keynoting this year.

Anyone interested in meeting up, ping me! seb AT praized.com

Attending the Kelsey Group's DMS '08 Conference in September

The Kelsey Group DMS 08

I will be attending The Kelsey Group’s DMS ’08 (formerly DDC2008) Conference in Atlanta on September 15, 16 and 17. As I’ve said again and again, DMS (or DDC) is a must for anyone following the directory publishing and local media industry. You can find more details here. My former big boss at Yellow Pages Group, Marc Tellier, is keynoting this year.

Anyone interested in meeting up, ping me! seb AT praized.com

Praized Media News: Praized Media Announces Partnerships with Yellowbook, Yellow Pages Group And Localeze

We’re very excited today to announce pre-launch partnerships with three world-class organizations: Yellowbook, Yellow Pages Group and Localeze. More details in the press release:

PRAIZED MEDIA POWERS UP FOR LAUNCH, ANNOUNCING PARTNERSHIPS WITH YELLOWBOOK, YELLOW PAGES GROUP AND LOCALEZE

Local Search Platform Prepares for Public Beta Launch this Summer; Builds Service with Distribution Agreements and Millions of Local Business Listings

MONTREAL, Quebec – June 25, 2008Praized Media, Inc., the first distributed local search platform designed for social media, today announced strategic partnerships with leading local search providers, bringing the new company to the forefront of the local search industry. Praized has formed partnerships in the United States with business directory and data provider, Yellowbook, the nation’s largest independent publisher of print and online yellow pages, and Localeze, the largest online content manager serving local search engine publishers, businesses and ready-to-buy consumers. In Canada, Praized has partnered with Yellow Pages Group Co, Canada’s leading local commercial search provider. Praized is building a platform that will help social media publishers capture and organize local conversations occurring within their communities, and plans to launch its public beta this summer.

Yellowbook and Yellow Pages Group Turn to Praized to Reach Social Media Users
Praized has formed distribution agreements with Yellowbook, whose yellowbook.com network was recognized as the top gaining web property in the US by comScore in April 2008, and Yellow Pages Group Co., positioning the company for further success and leadership in the local search industry. Praized communities will have access to direct links to relevant local search results on yellowbook.com and YellowPages.ca websites, providing truly comprehensive search results and options for users.

“Yellowbook is focused on reaching more users in the social media landscape and now through Praized’s innovative platform, we will be able to instantly deliver targeted, relevant local business information to all types of Web communities that we have not been able to reach in the past,” said Patrick Marshall, chief new media officer at Yellowbook. “We are excited about this opportunity to reach these active online audiences and to be an integral part of the Praized platform from the get-go.”

Immediate Access to More Than 17 Million Local Business Listings
Praized has also formed data partnerships with Yellow Pages Group Co. in Canada and Localeze in the US, a company that delivers the largest, deepest, richest and most accurate set of local business content verified directly by merchants. These partnerships will provide Praized communities with access to a pre-loaded database of more than 17 million searchable, North American business listings.

“Our partnerships with Yellow Pages Group Co. and Localeze demonstrate the data-rich, robust local search platform that Praized will offer its multitude of communities across the Web,” said Harry Wakefield, chief executive officer at Praized Media. “By working with these comprehensive local data companies, Praized’s platform will provide relevant, quality content to its communities and create valuable local search user experiences.”

Praized will be announcing the public beta launch of its platform and first Praized communities this summer.

Source: Praized Media corporate Web site

Canadian Newspaper Industry Doing Much Better Than US One

A few weeks ago, with the release of the latest revenue numbers from the Newspaper Association of America, we were treated with very Chicken Little-esque headlines including “Decline Of US Newspapers Accelerating“, “NAA Reveals Biggest Ad Revenue Plunge in More Than 50 Years ” and “NAA to newspapers: advertise this“. 

Highlights of these articles included:

  • “Total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006”
  • “Signs that online growth rate is beginning to slow as well. Internet ad revenue in 2007 grew 18.8% to $3.2 billion compared to 2006.”
  • “But an even more important reason why paper ads are declining is that their cost-to-value ratio is way out of whack with what advertisers can get elsewhere, particularly the Internet.”

One reader in Techcrunch (a former journalist) had an especially enlightening comment:

Across the board, three dynamics are pretty consistently hammering nails into the dailies’ collective coffin faster than might be occur otherwise:

* Despite talk about fundamental disruption in the business, there’s still an attitude that this is a storm to be ridden out rather than a complete sea change. Even when the folks at the top (owners, publishers) get it, there are many, many layers of upper and middle managers who don’t — and who are afraid of losing head count because that somehow diminishes their authority.

* Sales has been given increasing control of the organization. Mind you, sales are crucial — but it’s hard to find a group of folks less strategic than salespeople on commission.

* Too many lifers. When you get into key operational areas (marketing, product development, news management) you find a lot of people who’ve been in the daily news business their whole careers, which isn’t necessarily bad, but nor is it a hotbed of innovation. What’s more shocking is the number of people you run across who’ve been at the same paper for 15, 20 or 25 years.

Chris Anderson, Wired’s Editor-in-Chief, had a different take on things, one that I definitely agree with:

The truth is that the newspaper business is still a huge industry and will be around in one form or another for the rest of my life. That is not to dismiss the declines, but only to note that there’s still a lot of money there and what is required is strategic change, not giving up the ghost.

Growth industries are different from sunset industries, but in many cases the second category is larger (one example: the Yellow Pages is still a $16 billion business).  Managing companies on the way up takes a different set of skills than milking them for cash on the way down (and often different people, witness the buyout guys), but fortunes are just as often made the second way.

What people forget is that industries peak at the top. Which is to say, at the very time that the first and second derivative people are writing off a business, those who can stand back and see the value still left in it can make a mint. Laugh at newspapers if you will, but I’ll bet some private equity firm out there is looking at the chart above and licking their chops.

With all this doom and gloom, I was pleasantly surprised when the Canadian Newspaper Association released their numbers last week.  Highlights from the Financial post and The Windsor Star:

  • “Revenue at Canadian newspapers fell about one per cent last year”
  • “The healthier financial picture in Canada reflects newspapers that are doing a better job maintaining their readership numbers”
  • “a 30 per cent rise in online advertising revenue offsetting a two per cent drop on the print side.”
  • “The ongoing challenge for newspaper companies (…) is to figure out how to use print content in digital form across various platforms such as home computers or mobile devices.”
  • “The narrative about newspapers in the U.S. has been consistently negative in recent years, and that negativity has unduly influenced perceptions of the health of the newspaper industry in Canada”

What it means: as I don’t know the intricacies of both regions in the newspaper industry, it’s very difficult for me to comment on the why of those major differences.  But it’s something we also see in the directory industry, where Canada (or by proxy Yellow Pages Group) usually experiences better financial results than its US peers.  From a newspaper usage perspective, I do have one recent “focus group of one” anecdote though.  Ever since I got my HTC Touch with a cheap unlimited data plan from Bell Mobility, I find myself reaching for the phone much more often than the printed newspaper when I have a few minutes during the day.  Radio-Canada (the French CBC) has become my default source for mobile news as they refresh their feed very often, have tons of original content and have a mobile-specific version.  If I (a self-proclaimed newspaper junkie) am reaching for the phone instead of the paper, it’s a sure sign that mobile will be next opportunity/challenge facing the newspaper industry and I think it will be the same in the directory business.