Archive for the ‘Verticals’ Category

Fablistic: Getting to the Short List

April 2, 2010

Malcolm Lewis’ new startup is called Fablistic (Lewis was the founder of PremierGuide, which he sold to Local.com). It’s part of a new group of local sites — though Fablistic is broader than local — which try to “get you to the short list,” in Lewis’ words.

There are no reviews, only recommendations as reflected in the compiled and ranked lists.

The site is evolving so it’s a bit of a work in progress, but the concept behind it is compelling: enable people to see recommendations (lists) from friends and colleagues (or those they follow) across a broad range of categories. It’s a bit like the old LivingSocial, which shifted and become a Groupon clone.

Of course it’s integrated with Facebook Connect.

It shares a conceptual approach and orientation with AlikeList and Tellmewhere – and with the new direction of CityVoter. In a sense it’s a cousin of “best of” lists that have been around forever, but reinvented in a post-Facebook, post-Twitter world.

People develop lists over time and then those lists and rankings can be shared and sorted according to several criteria. I can search, for example, for books, wines, movies and restaurants (among other categories) and then sort by a variety of filters.

Those filters include most popular, people I’m following or “just me.” The latter capability means I can use this site as a way to compile my own lists, as a “memory aid,” and consult them online — or in mobile later. (No app here yet.)

While many of the use cases are going to be similar to existing verticals or IYPs, these new types of “recommendations” engines or directories — Buzz.com is AT&T’s entry — are a potential successor in many circumstances. We’ll have to see, but they’re more mobile friendly and, if they can get the content and gain adoption, many people will likely embrace them as new directories for a more “cloudy” and socially networked world.

SuperMedia Renews Local.com Deal, And . . .

March 31, 2010

This renewal of the distribution relationship between SuperMedia and Local.com would be a very ordinary occurrence, normally. However against the backdrop of the closing down of the Google AdWords Reseller program it takes on larger significance. First the press release:

Under the new agreement, SuperMedia’s performance and subscription advertisers will receive preferred placement on www.local.com. The expanded agreement also includes distribution of enhanced ads and content from Superpages.com advertisers, including ratings and reviews, links to local business profile pages and videos. The expanded agreement is expected to increase the monetization of Local.com search traffic by providing an increased number of Superpages.com’s advertiser listings in response to search requests on Local.com and its distribution network. Revenue is generated when consumers connect with advertisers by clicking on their listing or calling their businesses.

Deals like this become more important for local publishers as they step up efforts to diversify traffic sources. That effort has been going on for some time of course and places those networks such as CityGrid, V-Enable (in mobile) and Where (in mobile) in a position to benefit. The perhaps temporary ending of the Google program also creates uncertainty in the local ecosystem, which had been under strain but generally stable for the past couple of years.

Google remains a critical traffic source, however once certified resellers don’t have the same privileged access and tools — at least for the time being.

I spent some time on the phone yesterday with yet another of the involved parties who gave me more interesting opinion and perspective. It was almost entirely off the record so I can’t reproduce the discussion here. However I can say that this individual speculated that a new version of the reseller program, when or if it re-emerges, will likely require much greater “transparency” among the resellers and will probably not allow them to simply bundle Google in with other sources of traffic. Again, this is pure speculation, capital P.

Previously another person opined that this change reflected the “maturation” of the local ecosystem and market and put an upbeat spin on the development. Others, however, are not quite as sanguine.

I’ve now heard from more than one source that the AdWords reseller program largely operated “under the radar” at Google, which I find surprising, given that Sheryl Sandberg (now Facebook COO) was one of the speakers at the initial Google Local Markets Symposium, which focused on the program. Nonetheless, apparently very high level Google execs recently “discovered” that resellers were marking up clicks (sometimes 100% or more) and were upset by that. Whether that had anything to do with the decision to interrupt or terminate the program is unclear — but probably.

Companies like Yodle, as a representative example, are getting roughly 50% of their traffic, depending on the advertiser category, from Google but moving increasingly to build a wide range of sources as part of a “network.” Automated display ad creation platforms (PaperG), video (Jivox, Mixpo, TurnHere, etc.) and mobile become increasingly important in this diversification effort — traditional media too.

There may be benefits and unintended consequences here. Local publishers will be pushed into developing new properties and focusing on their brands. That might make some of them stronger over the long term. Google, for its part, could find itself with more spam on its hands as some local publishers and sales channels try an push SEO more aggressively. (Let’s be clear: I’m not equating SEO and spam, but some SEO efforts do turn out to be spam-like; think press-releases.)

We’ll see. Like the advent of the reseller program and strategy behind it, a few years ago, this moment represents a new phase in the evolution of the local market, which is increasingly diverse, dynamic — and challenging — for all involved.

Rumor: Google AdWords Reseller Program Ending?

March 28, 2010

The Google AdWords reseller program has been a significant part of the local SEM landscape, enabling publishers, verticals and independent sales channels to gain credibility pitching SEM programs and packages to the local market. Here’s the current list of resellers. It includes AT&T, AdReady, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Citysearch, Clickable, Comcast, Hearst Newspapers, Network Solutions, Orange Soda, ReachLocal, Dex One, SuperMedia, YPG, Yellowbook and Yodle, among others. 

There has always been a certain tension between Google and some of its partners over margins and the percentage of advertiser spend going to buying media. Some of the partners seek “print-like margins,” while Google sees much smaller margins as being appropriate (agency like margins).

In the past couple of weeks there has been a rumor that the program is being shut down by Google:

Asked about this Google issued the following statement:

“The Google AdWords Authorized Reseller Program is still active. We remain committed to building relationships with third party partners that enable small and medium-sized businesses to realize the benefits of cost-efficient, targeted and measurable online advertising solutions like AdWords.

Earlier this year there was a rumor that Google was compelling, as a condition of certification, reseller partners to disclose to advertisers the percentage of the advertiser spend that was actually going to media vs. margin. Assuming this is accurate, it seems to be a response to the churn problem where some partners pocket 40% – 50% of the ad spend, for example, leaving not enough money to really deliver for the local advertiser — resulting in frustration and churn. 

If Google were to shutter the program it would not be the end of local SEM by any means. Resellers get a suite of services from Google:

However SEM buying could still be done in much the same way it is today. What would be lost is the “credibility” that comes with the certified reseller status. Again, Google has said the program is operating and that it remains committed to it. 

What do you know or have you heard?

___

Update: Someone wrote me privately and said that there were significant benefits to being a reseller . . . having to do with API account creation and related benefits. Here’s what he said:

The two repercussions of losing reseller status for large Adwords resellers would be the following:

1) Having to pay to use Google’s API. Currently resellers enjoy free API transactions.  At high volumes those costs are significant.

2) Not being able to create accounts through the Adwords API.  Here again, only resellers enjoy the benefit of being able to create a new Adwords account through the API, and when you’re talking about large volumes, forcing a reseller to create that many accounts by hand removes economies of scale

Pages Jaunes Acquires People Search Co.

March 25, 2010

Pages Jaunes, in France, has acquired Austrian-based people search engine 123People.

The article I link to repeats speculation that the acquisition price was between 10 and 15 million Euros ($13 to $20 million).

This is part of a larger emerging trend of yellow pages publishers acquiring third party sites or launching non-YP branded sites. As I’ve tried to argue in the past, YP publishers should now thing of themselves as “local holding companies,” with a range of brands and properties to address different audiences and use cases.

Google’s Hotel Pricing Experiment

March 23, 2010

Google announced yesterday that it was trying something (not visible to all), including prices on Maps for hotels:

Today we started experimenting with a new feature, visible to a small portion of users, to help make that process even easier by showing specific prices for selected hotel listings.

With this feature, when you search for hotels on Google Maps you’ll be able to enter the dates you plan to stay and see real prices on selected listings. You can click on the price to see a list of advertisers who have provided pricing information for that hotel, indicated by the “Sponsored” text, and click through to reserve a room on the advertiser’s site. By showing you this relevant hotel rate information directly in the Google Maps results panel we hope to make this aspect of your trip planning more speedy and efficient – so you can get where you’re going and enjoy your travel destination!

Here’s the provided example for “Hotels, New York”:

While there have been rumors of “Google Travel” for literally years, I’m wondering what broader idea might be under investigation here. Yet pricing data have long been available in SERPs for products, so there’s nothing especially novel about price information in general:

However pricing data about hotels does make Google Maps much more useful as a travel planning tool, potentially minimizing the need to check several sites to get the information.

Dex Launches Weddings Vertical

March 15, 2010

DexOne has launched a weddings vertical:

Per the release . . . features of DexKnows Weddings include:

– Videos — Hundreds of wedding-related videos from local businesses, including ‘how-to’s’ in photography, floral arrangements and food design

– Q&A — A social networking community where brides can chat with other brides about wedding planning needs and ideas and offer suggestions on local vendors

– Celebrity Wedding Planner — Wedding planning tips and secrets from renowned celebrity wedding planner Yifat Oren, who has coordinated weddings for such stars as Kevin Costner, Jason Bateman and Mariska Hargitay, among others. Yifat provides the latest in wedding design, inspiring alternatives and tips for brides on all types of budgets.

– Articles — Thousands of original articles designed to provide informative content, such as tips, recommendations and how-to guides

This is smart and probably the beginning of a number of verticals by Dex.

The only “risk” in such a verticals strategy is that it would be done primarily for SEO value and thus not given the kind of attention and quality that would be required for long-term success of such an effort.

RedBeacon Morphs into Social Platform

March 11, 2010

When RedBeacon won the TechCrunch50 as the “OpentTable for service businesses,” I lauded the site’s elegant design and theory but “dissed” what appeared to be naiveté on the part of the model (and some of the folks who were celebrating it).

Here’s what I said at the time:

As a general matter local businesses are time starved, confused about online advertising and generally overwhelmed by pitches for their marketing dollars. Getting them to show up and participate at RedBeacon is going to be an enormous challenge. Let me repeat that: an enormous challenge.

If the founders have a five to seven year time horizon they might be prepared for the very long, slow climb up the mountain that is local. Alternatively they might be secretly thinking they’re a useful platform and will be acquired by a yellow pages publisher or other traditional media company if they can prove value and gain some momentum. Perhaps; it’s more likely than succeeding as a stand alone company.

Somewhat less challenging than getting local businesses to self-serve and participate in RedBeacon is building consumer awareness. Yet that too will be tough, with search engines and so many other sources of local business information online. The booking part is novel and differentiates RedBeacon from many local destination sites. But the third party appointment vendors (e.g., Bookfresh) will enable sites like Yelp to add booking and appointments quite easily. Yelp has 25 million uniques and a consumer brand. Tough to match.

Yet without brand awareness and usage among consumers, those local businesses that are more savvy and motivated will not show up because they’re not likely to get much response. And without a critical mass of local business participation the value won’t be there for consumers either. It’s a classic chicken and egg problem. The fact that RedBeacon won — again, I have nothing against the site or its founders — also reflects to me the disconnect between the bubble world of startups and their funders and the real world.

Good luck to RedBeacon and congratulations. I hope that they prove my skepticism wrong.

Yesterday the company held a WebEx to cite progress and announce a partnership with (parenting) group creation platform BigTent. They said this was merely the first of a number of partnerships.

RedBeacon appears to be starting to prove me wrong because they seem to have been smart about some enhancements and changes to the site, most notably the integration of Facebook. In effect it appears that RedBeacon is shifting somewhat to become a social platform and hub that manages recommendations for service providers across a range of sites.

The following are a few illustrative slides from the presentation:

Big Tent integration:

They say they’ve had little difficulty signing up service providers:

RedBeacon is also now facilitating greater communication (still no phone) between the SMB and the prospect:

The slides go on like this: problem, lesson, solution . . .There appear to be a range of tweaks and changes that make the site more consumer and SMB friendly and they appear to be very thoughtful changes. But perhaps the smartest of all is the social media integration:

RedBeacon is still in a crowded segment but it’s now not simply a destination site with a Chicken and Egg problem; it’s a social media platform that can extend reach through deals like BigTent and Facebook. Very smart.

Roost Launches FB App for Local Realtors

March 7, 2010

Roost CEO Alex Chang sent me a note last week alerting me to the launch of the company’s app on Facebook, “Social Real Estate.” It enables local agents to create a “real estate” tab on their pages full of market data and other information.

Chang explained, “The Roost app allows a local agent or broker to configure a free ‘Real Estate’ Tab on their business page within minutes.  It leverages external API’s to bring in true local market real estate, schools and lifestyle data. This is just the first iteration of the tools we plan to offer.”

Here’s an example of what the app looks like on a Facebook Page:

Click on the tab and  you see promotional copy, links to other online marketing (blog), maps, market data and so on:

In email I asked Chang if he knew how many local realtors had Facebook Pages. He estimated that in the US there are about 300,000 (or somewhat more) agents on Facebook. The National Assn of Realtors claims about 1.3 million members, not all of whom are active. Chang guessed that the agents on Facebook represent perhaps 40% to 50% of the active agents in the US. 

Realtors have always been among the most interesting of SMBs. Many of them are aggressive, early adopters of new marketing methods.

Now, imagine a fairly complete digital marketing program for realtors that doesn’t involve a penny of media spending:

  • A blog (feeds into FB, Twitter)
  • Mobile app from Smarter Agent (local listings w/agent branding)
  • Mobile optimized personal site/blog (somewhat optional at the moment)
  • Enhanced Google LBC presence (w/video)
  • Yelp enhanced profile
  • Facebook Page like the one above 
  • Online classifieds (mostly free)

This represents considerable effort, especially the blogging if it’s done regularly. And while there is money changing hands to create and launch all these tools, my point is there’s no “advertising” involved.

Agents still will undoubtedly do some traditional media ads, but in terms of online this could all be done — and be quite effective — without spending a dime on advertising. Most SMBs don’t realize how much can now be done online for free. If they did it would be potentially very scary for publishers and media companies.

Hitwise: MapQuest Still a Strong Query Term

March 5, 2010

The monthly travel report from Hitwise shows that MapQuest has settled in at number two, probably never to return to number one. However it remains a top brand and query, as the second chart indicates below:

This discrepancy between MapQuest’s number two position and the fact that its brand is still very heavily searched for is used by Foundem (one of complainants against Google) to make a case for “search neutrality” (oxymoron) with the FCC.

Hotel Bookings, Events Now on YP.com

February 11, 2010

AT&T Interactive has added travel/hotel bookings to Yellowpages.com and YP.com in a deal with Expedia:

YP.com has also added events from Zvents (present in the Yellowpages.com iPhone app) and Cars. The latter is a bit more of a stretch, but travel and events broaden out the utility of the site:

I was told that a very large number of searches on one of the major US IYP sites are travel-related so the booking feature makes lots of sense. What do you think about the integration of this additional content/functionality?

How Do Newspapers Feel about the HotJobs Sale?

February 4, 2010

The original and central element of the Yahoo!-newspaper consortium was the HotJobs property. This was the core content and asset around which the “network” and consortium was built. It grew over time to include other properties and capabilities (search, ad serving/targeting). But now that Yahoo! is selling/outsourcing HotJobs to Monster how do the newspapers feel about it?

Here’s what the Monster press release says specifically about newspapers:

With the addition of HotJobs’s network of more than 600 daily and weekly newspapers, Monster’s alliances with local papers will grow to a total of approximately 1,000, giving Monster reach in all 50 states. The additional newspaper alliances, through their online and print classified ads, will further Monster’s current strategy of connecting job seekers with smaller, local businesses, particularly in healthcare, education, and skilled and hourly job categories.

Yahoo! will continue to manage its broader Newspaper Consortium (NPC) partnership, including providing both search and display advertising, content distribution, and its ad-serving platform, to newspapers in its NPC.

I don’t know whether or to what extent there was any consultation with them about this transaction. Do you think the newspapers care? Ought to care?

Looking for a BD/Product Strategy Exec?

February 2, 2010

I spoke to someone yesterday who is a Netscape veteran with considerable local and mobile expertise. He’s looking for a senior/VP-level BD and/or product strategy role. I’m not getting paid to write this or promote him. Here’s a blurb he sent to me describing his background:

[Person X] has fifteen years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry, working for industry-leading companies. He has built profitable relationships with search engines, ad networks, and web publishers. He is entrepreneurial and has started two successful businesses, one in Local Online Advertising, the other in Ecommerce Loyalty. He has built channel reseller programs for two leading mobile software infrastructure providers. His optimal scenario is to find a small dynamic fast-moving team of recently-funded developers, preferably in the Bay Area (or LA or NY). In short, he would like to join a team where he can put his fingerprint on something new that creates real consumer value.

Anybody interested in talking to him send me a note and I’ll connect you.

LocalTop Offers ‘Cost per Job’ Billing

February 1, 2010

There’s a new services directory called LocalTop, which I spoke with about two weeks ago. The site right now is unremarkable and the company is in a beta phase in the SF Bay Area only. However, the innovation is in the pricing model.

Though not unique (HelpHive uses a similar model) LocalTop is one of only a small number of directories taking a commission on a completed project: cost per job, in other words. This is enabling the company with a single sales person on the phone to enjoy an impressive close rate. That’s because there’s literally no risk to the local business.

Several years ago I organized a panel at SMX Local-Mobile dedicated to the idea that local “advertising” online would move from CPM/CPC to CPA. The consensus on the panel was a diversity of business models would co-exist  in the market. True enough, but we may see more pressure on market leaders if smaller sites gain traction with the CPJ/CPA model.

The technology and platform behind LocalTop comes out of BackWeb. Rather than reviews, the site is relying on third party certifications, badges and other mechanisms to ensure that only ethical businesses in good standing are included in the database.

The profile also provides lots of detailed information to help consumers make decisions about service providers:

Co-founder Bill Heye told me that businesses that receive complaints could/will be dropped. LocalTop follows up with customers to evaluate their experience.

The central challenge here will be getting traffic and routing leads through their site. With its “no risk” model the company has addressed the typically biggest problem that local startups face: getting attention and interest from advertisers. However, delivering projects to those SMBs requires traffic and consumer usage.

What do you think of the cost-per-job model and whether that will start to take greater hold in the local space?

YPG Buys Restaurant Vertical

January 26, 2010

Canada’s Yellow Pages Group added to its “portfolio” of sites by buying restaurant directory Restaurantica. The site operates in the US, Canada and, curiously, Barbados.

If the benefits of this acquisition for YPG aren’t obvious, here they are:

  • Restaurants are a high usage, low revenue category for print publishers.
  • They’re a very high usage category online and in mobile; the site already has an iPhone app.
  • The reviews content collected here can also be “distributed” on YPG’s YP site as well as its city guide (if desired)
  • This gives sales reps something specifically to sell to restaurant owners (which can include video)

In an ideal world, YP publishers would think of themselves as “local holding companies” and would make a bunch of acquisitions like this that could address high value verticals and could be developed into stand alone brands.

Publishers need to continue to enhance and improve their YP “flagship” sites but also move beyond them with homegrown alternatives that address different use cases and demographic segments, as well as acquisitions. AT&T Interactive’s forthcoming Buzz.com is a potential example of the former. Restaurantica is an example, obviously, of the latter.

What I want to know is: Where is the local site targeted toward moms?  Right now Center’d is probably the closest version of that.

Correcting the Google Real Estate Story

January 17, 2010

Enough people who were at the Inman Real Estate Connect show have come forward or made comments now that this needs to be clarified: “Google to Scoop Up Real Estate Sites.” I wasn’t there and was writing based on vicarious information.

Here was the quote, from Google’s Sam Sebastian, as it was reported

 “We’re actively looking to acquire one to two small real estate companies a month.”

Apparently that’s a misquote. Rather, he said something more like this:  “We’re actively looking to acquire one to two companies a month.”

In the context of a real estate conference and discussion about the Google-Trulia acquisition rumor it’s easy to see how this could be taken as a statement that Google will be acquiring real estate companies specifically. 

Here’s what Google CEO Eric Schmidt said during the Q3 earnings call about acquisitions:

The way we think about acquisitions is we have historically done an acquisition, perhaps one a month or so. And those are typically small and they are typically complete an offering, they are typically technology intensive, they’re not very expensive in the scheme of things and they bring some specific technology.

Sebastian may have been repeating this “generic” comment about Google’s policy and attitude toward acquisitions in general rather than commenting on real estate acquisitions in particular. 

Yet I would still bet that Google is going to do some real estate acquisitions because it’s a local-vertical that’s very lucrative and important to consumers.

Google to Scoop Up Real Estate Sites

January 16, 2010

Google is obviously very focused on local broadly but also some key verticals within the segment. One of those is real estate.

There were a number of sources recently that asserted Google was interested in buying Trulia. (Maybe it still will.) 

However at the Inman Real Estate Connect show in New York, Google’s Sam Sebastian reportedly said the following: “We’re actively looking to acquire one to two small real estate companies a month.”

Here are the top US real estate sites according to Hitwise:

On this list are many sites that Google can’t buy because they’re not independent. For example, Rent.com is eBay, ServiceMagic is IAC and so on.

My guess is that Google will buy sites that offer rich functionality, have established relationships with MLS services, are already established marketing platforms for brokers/agents and/or have relatively comprehensive hooks into rental listings. Roost.com, Redfin and HotPads (not on the list above) could well be candidates. I’m gonna bet money that Roost is one that’s acquired fairly soon. 

There might also be an acquisition or two specifically in the mobile space around real estate.

Zillow Planning 2011 IPO

January 13, 2010

Zillow raised a great deal of money from investors, almost $100 million. That all but precludes an acquisition. Hence the coming IPO. From BusinessWeek:

Zillow Inc., the second-largest U.S. real-estate listing site by users, plans to go public in 2011 and will begin courting investors next month to boost its valuation, Chief Operating Officer Spencer Rascoff said.

Zillow’s challenge is that real-estate sites like Move Inc.’s Realtor.com, the No. 1, have low valuations, Rascoff said in an interview. Zillow, based in Seattle, plans a series of presentations to persuade investors it should be priced like leaders in other Web markets, including health-care publisher WebMD Health Corp. and restaurant site OpenTable Inc., he said.

Zillow has 5.2 million monthly visitors, second to Move.com, according to the article. Mobile is also an increasingly important part of Zillow’s strategy.

But wait . . . this piece from TechFlash casts some doubt on the “immediacy” of any such IPO plan.

‘Hyper-Local’ Sites Need HL Ad Nets

January 12, 2010

Even though I was one of the original users of the term “hyper-local” I’m now an opponent of the phase. But those sites that are focused on communities and neighborhoods need monetization that does a better job for them than AdSense. One approach is Cox-owned Adify, which allows the creation of custom or vertical ad networks. Adify is the back-end and infrastructure behind SLOAN: Sacramento Local Online Ad Network and other similar networks. According to the press release put out last month:

Developed in conjunction with Adify, a vertical ad network platform, SLOAN is currently creating agreements with several local publishers. To date it includes The Sacramento Press, The Rancho Cordova Post, Gold River Online, Elk Grove Online, SacMix, The Sac Rag, Sacramento365.com, Myfolsom.com and The Tomato Pages Network and is growing.

While SLOAN will provide support and a new revenue channel to independent, online publishers, each online publisher will have total control over its ad campaigns. Accepting or opting out of ads is completely at the discretion of each individual publisher and websites will remain autonomous. In addition, readers will not see any changes in the content or the in-depth coverage and focus their communities receive from the publisher. SLOAN was also designed so advertisers can take advantage of SLOAN’s reach and targeted audiences.

This is a model that can and should be replicated by other collections of local sites.

Mark Potts reminds me that GrowthSpur is out there building local ad networks too. 

HotPads Launches Android App

January 11, 2010

Real Estate Vertical HotPads has bypassed the iPhone and gone straight to Android with a new app:

It joins Trulia, Zillow, Smarter Agent and others in the mobile realm. The app has some nice functionality, including GPS-guided directions to houses and apartments.

Interestingly the app also offers vacation rental search and hotels (somewhat strangely).

SuperMedia and the ‘Yellow Pages’ Brand

January 7, 2010

Given the apparent “de-emphasis” of the print yellow pages on the new company website, one of the questions I asked SuperMedia (formerly Idearc) CEO Scott Klein is how central the yellow pages are to its business going forward. He said some interesting things that both affirmed the YP part of the business and suggested the company was more aggressively diversifying as well.

“Clearly we’re turning up the heat on our online and our direct mail offerings,” said Klein. “Yellow pages will continue to be a very important piece of what we’re doing and it will be for some time to come. But we’ve made good progress on the other revenue streams.”

The company is selling three types of ad products:

  • Print directory
  • Online listings/ads/etc.
  • Direct mail

Klein made the point that the company had “re-engineered” various processes associated with its online offerings. “Our customers can now use a watch instead of a calendar,” explained Klein. He’s referring to the length of time from when an order is placed to when it goes live online

In discussing how the company thinks of itself he reiterated a point made before that SuperMedia is positioning itself as an advertising agency and not simply a YP publisher.

I asked him what would happen to the “SuperPages” brand. Klein told me it would be sticking around. Super becomes the umbrella label that ties the company’s products together.

I asked about how the “Super Guarantee” was doing. Klein said that the program had exceeded expectations and was helping drive usage.

“We’ve seen meaningful spikes in registrations and healthy improvement in possession and usage.” He said that the company uses Gallup to measure possession and usage and that in “90% of measured markets; possession and usage are up in double digits.” Klein added that call tracking numbers indicate increased call volumes from the print directory.

The “second iteration” of the Super Guarantee ad campaign will begin to air in March.

I presented Klein with the new conventional wisdom (reflected in this Financial Times piece) that print is dead, etc. and asked him were the reps seeing this attitude in the field. While he agreed that this attitude is pervasive he said that the third party research they present (e.g., Gallup) “is irrefutable.”

According to Klein the reps are incentivized (sorry) to make multi-product sales and may lead with different products in different markets and verticals. He pointed to mobile as being something that the company could sell to restaurants and its EveryCarListed auto site as a foot in the door for auto dealers that didn’t exist for the company previously.

“An unanticipated byproduct [of EveryCarListed] is we can sell them other stuff. Some of these guys that had abandoned YP are now interested,” explained Klein.

Asked about the company’s mobile performance, Klein said “All my expectations have really been exceeded.” He added that the usage frequency the company is seeing is greater on mobile than online.

I asked whether the company would be going into more verticals such as EveryCarListed or make comparable acquisitions in vertical segments. Klein said that it was “likely” that there would be additional vertical efforts and some “small acquisitions.” (There are plenty of small companies in the local segment.)

One larger question to ask is whether the “yellow pages” brand continues to be viable over time. SuperMedia isn’t using that term obviously but it’s otherwise closely linked to the print directory.

What do you think? Is it time to ditch the “yellow pages” brand?


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