Self-Styled ‘Expert’ Disses IYP, Pimps Self

Maybe he’s an expert but I’ve never heard of him . . . Self-styled “expert” on YP advertising Barry Maher put out an aggressively self-promotional press release that argues against IYP advertising (and local search). Read it here.

I’m going to infer — Barry doesn’t say it in the release — that the simple proposition he’s pitching is: SMEs should diversify their online ad spend beyond IYP (and maybe beyond search). As a general matter a diversification strategy is correct. (SMEs are ignorant of how to do that however.)

However what Barry probably doesn’t know is that:

  • IYP Searcher growth outpaces overall search market (46% vs. 21% per comScore)
  • There are almost 70 million monthly IYP searches (per comScore), with particular strength in-market
  • IYP searches convert at higher rates than general local search queries (IYP is used late in the buying cycle)
  • Local search as defined by comScore (search + IYP) has 108 monthly users; the Internet is 172 million in the US.

Having said all that I’m not a unqualified defender of IYP. There are numerous problems and challenges, which I’ve discussed before at some length.

The chief problem with local is its fragmentation, which is a structural problem that Barry cannot solve. But many online players are working to. I probably shouldn’t go on like this but this guy’s release just struck me as really pompous and not all that helpful to small businesses, which need genuine help with online advertising.

13 Responses to “Self-Styled ‘Expert’ Disses IYP, Pimps Self”

  1. Barry Maher Says:

    Sorry, you didn’t like the press release. I actually didn’t write it. I won’t dispute I might sometimes be pompous but on this occassion at least it wasn’t me.

    I do stand by the point of the release however. And that simple point is that right now online Yellow Pages only generate a small fraction of the response that print Yellow Pages do, and that a number of small local businesses are pulling too much money out of their print books prematurely and putting it into online Yellow Pages, often without any idea of how much traffic that particular site might be getting.

    I am fully aware that local seach/online Yellow Pages are the wave of the future. I’m also aware of the facts you quoted. But at this point at least, those millions of referencesworldwide only amount to a small fraction of the 17 or 18 billion references generated by local print Yellow Pages yearly.

    I’m not saying that online Yellow Pages and local search don’t work. I’m not saying they can be effective and cost effective. I’m saying that for a local advertiser, ignoring the print Yellow Pages to place all your advertising in an online poduct, one which may or may not even be a top online product in a fragmented market, is at this point premature.

    I’m sorry if you never heard of me. (My mother would be devastated.) For whatever it’s worth (probably not much), I’m the author of what in the Yellow Pages industry is generally considered the top book on Yellow Pages advertising, “Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising.” It’s certainly the top seller. The original edition was published by AMACOM, the American Management Association, in 1986. And it was generally considered to be meticulously researched, taking into account the leading opinion and the best available research on the subject. The third, updated edition was just released. Thus the press release. I’ve also written a great many articles on Yellow Pages, spoken at conferences on the subject, testified in court on it, consulted with thousands of advertisers and advertiser groups as well as a great many Yellow Pages publishers and those who compete with them. I’ve been involved in what was originally called electronic Yellow Pages and IYP isince 1986 and involved with several electronic, toll free and online pioneers. None of this of course makes me world famous. But I do know who to call to get leading opinion on matters relating to the Yellow Pages. I’m not smart enough to make this stuff up, I just go with the best opinion available.

  2. Barry Maher Says:

    Obviously, my posting should have read “I’m not saying they CAN’T be effective or cost effective.” Obviously, when done correctly, they can be both. I’m just saying that at this point 70 million references a month is dwarfed by 1.5 billion refences a month to the print product and small business people need to understand that.

    Say “hello” to Dick Larkin for me.

  3. Steve Wilson Says:

    Not that it matters, but, as it says in the release, I wrote that “overly-aggressive, self-promotional” press release not Barry Maher. He never even saw it.

    I thought it that it was fair to call a man an “expert” who’s been qualified as an expert witness on Yellow Pages in Federal and state court, who has written a highly-acclaimed book on the subject, who’s been interviewed by the NY Times, the London Times, USA Today, NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, CNBC etc. etc. And this was a PRESS RELEASE, designed to demonstrate Barry’s credentials to reporters, editors and radio show hosts in order to generate interviews and radio appearances. It wasn’t designed as an advertisement to the public or to be printed as an article or to do anything but promote Barry’s expertise to the press, those who might want to interview him. To me, calling a press release “self-promotional” is exactly like calling a press kit “self-promotional.” Yes, it is. That’s the point.

  4. So-called Expert Claims Internet Yellow Pages “Overrated” : Natural Search Blog Says:

    […] The press release refers to Barry Maher as “the expert TIME called, ‘the most widely respected consultant, speaker and writer’ on Yellow Pages advertising”. It seems odd that I’ve worked in the YP industry for a decade and hadn’t heard of Maher before. So, I went over to Greg Sterling’s blog and he said that he’d never heard of Maher, either. Now, Sterling is a widely recognized expert in local media, so this is perhaps pretty telling. […]

  5. Kevin Says:

    Has anyone found this Time article yet?

  6. Kevin Says:

    As a former journalist, I thought it highly unlikely that a supposedly ‘unbiased’ journalist would ever refer to someone as “the most widely respected consultant, speaker and writer” on Yellow Pages advertising. At the very least there would have to be some kind of attribution.

    I did some research to try and find this article and could not. If anyone could post it, I would appreciate it.

    Let’s not forget what this is all about – small business and their livelihood.

    Check out http://www.MerchantCircle.com and support small business and their online marketing efforts.

  7. AhmedF Says:

    So umm – where is the source for the billions of references generated by Yellow Pages vs millions on the IYP level.

  8. Barry Maher Says:

    The general source for the billions of references to Yellow Pages is the Yellow Pages Association ongoing National Usage Study (I was speaking in Illinois when Google alerted me to the original posting and I responded to it. I wasn’t looking at the study but the numbers I quoted should be reasonably accurate). It used to be 19 billion as I remember, then fell back a bit and recently have leveled off. As for the IYP numbers, I was merely contrasting print reference with the number of reference Greg had quoted in his posting. You might ask him about that. They seem to be generally in line with what I’ve heard, actually a bit less then some sources which credit IYP with about 10% of the total references.

    The source for the Time quote was their original promotion (and then later their introduction) for a piece I did for them on Yellow Pages advertising back when they first introduced their website and were adding a large section for small business. Although I’m obviously not a household name (very obviously from these postings), they had at least heard of me and contacted me to do the piece, then promoted it rather extensively. Our use of the quote was cleared with their legal department and they have no problem with it. It was not as Kevin, so rightly noted, something a journalist would have written. Still, I think TIME would say that the the claims they make in their promotion are also accurate or at least reflect their beliefs.

    Two or three pages in the front matter of Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising are full of similar quotes about the book. We didn’t make any of them up or they certainly would have talked about something more glamorous and more lucrative then Yellow Pages expertise.

    The fact that Kevin has been in the industry for 10 years and has never heard of me, certainly doesn’t speak well to the job we’ve been doing getting my name out there, even with this supposedly “aggressive self-promotion.” Actually we’ve done very little promotion in recent years because I’ve been lucky enough to have kept very busy without it. But if Kevin attended last year’s Association of Directory Publishers Convention he saw me give the opening keynote. Come to think of it, Larry Angove, president of the association, also referred to me in his intro as “the leading independent expert on the subject.” I’ve also spoken at what I think was the last Simba conference on Yellow Pages advertising and David Goddard, the editor of Simba’s Yellow Pages reports has already spoken to me about speaking at the next one.

    Though obviously there are people in the industry who haven’t heard of me (again my poor mother would be so upset), if you’d like to check me out ,you might ask Dave Godddard of Simba, Larry Angove of the Association of Directory Publishers, Larry Small or Neg Norton of the Yellow Pages Publishers Association, Denny Payne of AT&T, Blanche McGuire head of research for Ketchum and any of the hundreds of other Yellow Pages publishers types, Yellow Pages competitors, advertisers and advertising groups, others who helped me assemble the various editions of the Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising.

  9. Silver Says:

    [disclosure: I’ve been working for the online side of one of the largest combined print and internet yellow pages companies in the US for the past 10 years.]

    The problem with comparing the 70 million IYP searches number vs. the 17 billion print YP references number is that they are not at all calculated through identical nor even similar methods. And, the two types of media have radically different promotional potential.

    Advising businesses to avoid IYP advertising on the basis of comparing those two numbers would be quite misleading and not good advice.

    Typical local businesses may advertise in a few directories for their local metro area, so only people with access to the books in that area would have any chance to be exposed to the ad. Distribution numbers for the directory books for an area are also not necessarily a good indication of impressions potential, since many people may be promptly throwing the books away these days, in favor of online research options.

    Unlike the geographically limited distribution of print, online YP is available worldwide. So the “potential” promotion exposure for online ads may be considerably better for a lot of businesses, based on price.

    Finally, a number of IYPs offer pay for performance ad models, in which case the business would only pay for each referral they actually receive — by way of clicks to their website or phone calls. Performance based ads are not available through most print directories, so the business must pay a fixed fee per year with just the hope of performance.

    Print still has teeth and will for a while longer, but IYP and overall online advertising is growing so rapidly that most types of businesses cannot afford to ignore it if they wish to remain competitive.

    Internet advertising typically has a low barrier cost-to-entry, so businesses could easily experiment with it to see if it has any effectiveness for them. Considering the relatively low cost of a one-page website, compared to a one-page full-color book ad, and considering the wider distribution potential available online compared with print, there’s absolutely no good reason for businesses to be avoiding online promotion.

    Sterling’s point is well-founded.

  10. Barry Maher Says:

    Once again. I NEVER advised and never will advise advertisers to avoid IYP because of the small numbers. I’ve worked with any number of companies that are getting excellent results in IYP. And that’s what I said in my book. I’ve been a champion of IYP from the beginning. Heck, I’ve been involved in IYP from before the beginning.

    The beauty of IYP is that the advertisers should be able to get clear numbers on just how well his or her ads are working. It makes no difference to Joe the Plumber if either print or IYP get 70 million references or 70 billion references. The only thing important to him is how much business his particular ad or listing generates.

    The point I was making and that I will continue to make is that we’re now running into more than a few advertisers who are pulling everything out the Yellow Pages prematurely, often without any firm numbers on what that particular IYP may be drawing in their area, never mind for their particular type of business in their area. That is, in my opinion, a huge mistake and too many advertisers are discovering just that. Of course IYP can and does work. But, as I am always the first to point out with print Yellow Pages, a lot of people are being sold a lot of ineffective advertising. And I invite anyone who does agree with that to spend a bit of time with me at the next convention I address for any group that advertises in both print and IYP.

    I said before that I was a champion of IYP. That’s not really correct. I’m no more a champion of IYP than of print Yellow Pages. I’m a champion of advertising that works for the advertiser. And I’m a strong champion of selling them that advertising based on the best available information.

  11. Barry Maher Says:

    One last comment. As you may or may not have noticed, the first press release for the most recent edition for my book talked about how much money was being wasted in the print Yellow Pages. And right now a lot more ineffectual print advertising is being sold than IYP advertising.

  12. pradeep dubhashi Says:

    I am a strategy consultant based in India currently working with a leading YP company going IYP. For an industry watcher albeit from a distance, the current exchange between Maher and others was odious. Internet is my world and my surmise is that Maher and Sterling have claim to fame. I was rather disappointed, therefore, to read Sterlin’s comment on Maher. Sitting in India, I knew Maher (as I know Sterling and his work), how can Sterling not know him! Moral of the story is that IYPs matter and print YPs matter and one needs to know which matters more and when.

  13. Yamato-Soft Blog » Blog Archive » So-called Expert Claims Internet Yellow Pages “Overrated” Says:

    […] a decade and hadn’t heard of Maher before. So, I went over to Greg Sterling’s blog and he said that he’d never heard of Maher, either. Now, Sterling is a widely recognized expert in local media, so this is perhaps pretty […]

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