YPA Research Head Defends Print YP

Larry Small, Yellow Pages Association research director, defended the yellow pages (print) today in a column at Search Engine Land, and further unpacked the recent study I also blogged about:

In order to make an informed decision, however, local businesses need to be up-to-speed with current usage patterns as they relate to both traditional and new digital advertising options. They also should be aware of how Yellow Pages companies are integrating new platforms into their portfolios in order to deliver a hybrid model that maximizes consumer reach and drives business results. In some cases, one’s perception about how people are searching for business information and the services that Yellow Pages partners provide is different than the reality.

The bottom line is that that local market continues to fragment. The challenge for local businesses is to decide where to put their limited resources in that fragmented market, when they’re getting 10 calls a day from competing publishers and sales channels. The noise and confusion show no signs of abating.

Increasingly some of those SMBs will turn to self-service and free social media (FB, Twitter) and some will turn to group buying, which doesn’t represent an upfront cash outlay. But there remains a big opportunity for trusted third parties to manage the SMB ad spend across multiple platforms.

The challenge for traditional media and publishers of all stripes is how to prove the value of their more expensive traditional offerings (e.g., print) as usage further fragments, though remains strong among some demographic segments.

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5 Responses to “YPA Research Head Defends Print YP”

  1. Will Scott Says:

    Greg,

    This is where a deal like the Berry / Yodle deal looks so interesting. Berry has relationships with SMBs and, I know, has been looking for ways to move those dollars online for nearly a decade.

    IF, and it’s a big if, Berry has the relationship and not just a transaction, then deals like the Yodle one – partnering with a full-service online agency – becomes a very smart way to begin to move that SMB ad spending and allocate spending where it has the most impact.

    The challenge for all of these companies (traditional YP sales, Mass PPC / SEO providers) is maintaining trust of the consumer as they experiment their way to the proper mix of marketing initiatives.

    To me the most valuable tools for the SMB are the tracking tools in the Yodle / ReachLocal systems which allow – when used well – the advertiser to really understand which half of their marketing budget is wasted.

    Will

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    The “conflict of interest” comes if print publisher X reps have pressure to maintain print revenues and don’t truly offer packages that benefit SMBs depending on category and customer behavior profiles.

    Print will be useful in some cases, not in others. Uniform treatment of advertisers will not work.

    Agreed Yodle-Berry deal interesting.

  3. Mike Stewart Says:

    All that needs to happen is for Yellow Pages sales organizations to discontinue the business model of selling product and turn into reselling organizations for Google, Yodle, Yelp, Yahoo, and anyother company that needs to offer products to SMB’s and is willing to do so at a cost per aquisition or cost per call.

    This is very simple. Product pitches when you no longer have a viable product is a broken business model.

    Take any local search marketer who has looked at a few analytics reports to know that, even considering issues with last click attribution, search kicks IYP and Print in urban markets.

    SuperMedia states that 27% of the folks who receive the Greater Dallas Directory possess it. Of that 20% prefer it. Does that itself not tell you how fragmented and ineffective the saturation distribution delivery model is?

  4. Mike Stewart Says:

    To clarify, I meant turning into “service oriented” reseller consultants …. not commissioned sales reps. Big $$ Commission was only possible for high margin Yellow Pages publishing, not search. Google soaks up the majority of revenues since it provides the traffic, web development and management soak up the rest.

    But you would have thought Scott Klein at SuperMedia would have taken my advice, but no…. they are all about CEO profit and bonuses, not investing in a broken business model.

    Cheers,
    Mike Stewart

  5. Chris Silver Smith Says:

    I think Greg’s hit the nail on the head – the salient points are that local is fragmented. SMBs have a very bad time of trying to decide where to apply their promotional budgets.

    Unlike how I am sometimes portrayed, I’m all for SMBs advertising in print directories for the verticals and markets where it works. There’s no doubt in my mind that many print directories and some verticals enjoy continued, robust usage in print Yellow Pages.

    Yet, there seem to be some trends to be aware of. Yellowbook’s CEO pretty well stated in a recent news interview that he forsaw some likelihood of there not being print product in some markets within five years – such as coastal markets – while there would likely be continued robust usage in central-US markets like Tupelo, Mississippi. I think his straightforward answer on that subject is probably just about the most accurate portrayal of the YP efficacy situation. For some industries and some markets, print ads may perform better than other media.

    I consider the YPA’s recent study to be much improved in methodology. I’ll be very interested in seeing the next annual results for trend comparisons.

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