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The Kelsey Group and ConStat recently completed the second wave of our User View research project, in which we ask consumers about a range of issues around the use of local media, including both traditional and digital.

One of the many findings from this research got our attention, and we felt compelled to communicate this information to our clients. We did so in the form of an Advisory issued earlier this week with the intentionally bland title, A Research Advisory: User View II.

Those of you who are TKG clients have already seen the note, and for the rest of the Yellow Pages community, here is the bullet: We asked the question, €œIn the past year, which of the following sources of information have you used or referred to when shopping for products and services in your local area?€ Respondents were given a list of choices that included printed Yellow Pages, newspapers, Internet Yellow Pages, search engines, online shopping sites and direct mail, among other choices.

The results showed a meaningful decline in the number listing printed Yellow Pages from the first wave of User View in October 2003 to the second wave, conducted in February 2005. The decline was from 75 percent to 62 percent listing Yellow Pages among the resources used in the past year to find information on local businesses.

Is this evidence that the business is in a freefall? Of course not. At the very least, it does suggest to us that more research is needed to determine whether printed Yellow Pages is losing some of its stature as a primary resource for information on local businesses, amid a growing list of media choices, including increasingly robust local search.

The Yellow Pages industry can respond to this kind of data in a variety of ways.

It can ask hard questions about the true meaning of the findings. We encourage such questions, and we will engage anyone with standing in this industry in a discussion of the User View research, how it was conducted and how we interpret it.

Another response is to declare the end of Yellow Pages as we know it. This is certainly not the conclusion we have reached. We€™ve said it before and we€™ll say it again, the Yellow Pages has more competition than ever before, but it also retains tremendous power and continues to make a lot of money for its advertisers.

The industry can discourage €œnegative€ thinking about the business. We certainly welcome comments from anyone who takes this view.

Finally, the industry can see the User View datapoint as one of many bits of evidence, some of them apparently contradictory, that as a whole point to the need for an aggressive effort to promote the core directory product while simultaneously preparing vigorously for the inevitable shift in the revenue mix toward one weighted far more heavily toward digital. This shift is already taking place, and we expect it only to accelerate.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. The more the publisher's fiddle, the more the industry will go up in smoke. They want the Internet, this very disruptive technology, to go away, but it isn't.
    The question is who can help the Romans see the errors of their ways? What are some of these errors?
    1.Lack of urgency;
    2.No interest on their management's part to make the necessary investment in the future;
    3.Too few partnerships with real search players;
    4.Believing they can solve their problems with their own people;

  2. I agree with Caligula. It isn't likely that a telco person will run this operation with the kind of creative thinking and execution that will allow to compete with the Googles and Yahoos of the world. At the very least C.Stubbs needs to be able to operate without the bureaucracy of SBC/BS hanging over him. And he needs REAL incentives in the form of carrots not sticks. Do DP and IH have the capability of giving him management freedom? Does CS have the tools?

  3. You say the publishers fail to realize they can't solve their problems with their own people. To take that general comment to a specific example, I believe the deal will succeed only if a tech- and media-savvy outsider is brought in to run it, paid well, given equity and most of all given autonomy. The heads of BAPCO and SBCDO have to be willing to see someone get more money and more glory than they do in order for this thing to be successful.

  4. This data show that the internet is for real in the local space — something we've been reporting on for some time.

    Time to devote some more resources (including budget) to product development as well as marketing.

    The online world of local is way way more competitive than what print YP and newspapers are used to.

    Time to get busy rather than questioning the veracity of the data (which is sound).

    Believe me, we were quite surprised ourselves.

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