This morning AT&T announced third quarter earnings: generally very positive, especially for the iPhone-powered wireless division. But AT&T has effectively stopped saying anything publicly about its directory/yellow pages business. One has to descend deep into the speadsheets to find anything (and I’m not sure if I’ve found the correct line item):
If I’m reading it correctly, “directory” was $1.33 billion in Q3 ’08 and now is $1.16 billion in Q3 ’09. Depending on how you see it: not bad during a recession or, in the half empty version, symptomatic of the long slow decline of print yellow pages.
Separately the YPA and ADM, incumbent and independent yellow pages trade associations, announced their long-awaited merger today. This has been in the works for some time and was perhaps inevitable given the state of the YP industry. The challenge for the combined organization will be to reverse declining public and advertiser perceptions of the future of the print publication, promote YP as a true cross platform tool/utility for both consumers and advertisers and expand YP outreach to the broader world of media and advertisers.
While all the businesses wanting to tap the YP sales for or gain YP “distribution” show up at the YPA/Kelsey YP industry events, most publishers are not present elsewhere at search and broader online ad conferences. Idearc and more recently AT&T’s Yellowpages.com are exceptions. Among the CMRs, TMPDM and its unit 15 Miles have been aggressive about presenting outside the traditional YP industry events, at search and financial institution events.
In general, in my view, the YP industry needs a brand “makeover.”