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Yesterday, I attended the ADM regional meeting held here in Chicago, where I maintain the Midwest regional office for The Kelsey Group (which consists of me, a computer, phone and a tiny fridge filled with Diet Cokes).

The ADM is in the midst of a road show, which it does every year to update national YP agencies (CMRs) on what is happening in the directory business, particularly issues affecting national advertisers. These issues are many, and many seem never to go away (national surcharges and directory extensions, to offer just two examples).

Of particular interest was a presentation by Burt Michaels of Knowledge Networks/SRI on the new Yellow Pages Market Reporter. Burt offered some detail on what the current syndicated usage measurement service offers, and what it says about what’s happening in local markets. Burt was pitching (in a low-key manner) CMRs to buy the research (13 have to date) and if they have it, to dive deeper into the data with custom reports.

Burt was understandably reluctant to offer too much detail on how share breakdowns occur in local markets, though he did share data on Manhattan that had already been widely disclosed. His overarching comment says a lot about where the print directory business is today.

"Audience fragmentation is a reality that you are going to have to deal with."

While there was an initial wave of dueling press releases on the usage data, what is emerging is the picture Burt lays out. In most markets, audience is spread among two or three or more products. Not always evenly, and as Burt notes, the nature of the audiences isn’t always the same. But one-book buys are probably a thing of the past in most U.S. directory markets.

One apparently touchy point is the fact that just 13 CMRs have bought the research. One questioner at the meeting raised this issue, and the ADM responded by noting the 13 represent 60 percent of national sales. Nonetheless, the question (from a publisher I believe), shows some frustration among publishers that CMRs need to step up more and buy the data they have been asking publishers to produce for several years now. In fairness, most if not all of the most vocal CMRs have already bought the research.

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  1. Directory Share Ratings, LLP (DSR) offers Yellow Pages Usage data for all directories in all U.S. markets. DSR is based in telephone interviews with 15,000 households in ZIP Codes specifically selected to measure the competitive relationship of ALL directories within ALL ZIP Codes.

    DSR is designed specifically for CMRs and publishers to assist advertisers make the most efficient use of their Yellow Pages budgets in order to maximize their ROI. DSR competitive analyses use ZIP Code level usage data to match the advertiser’s unique market area with the usage of just the portion of a directory that falls within that market. DSR has found that usage throughout a directory distribution area is far from equal, with usage by ZIP Code within a DDA varying by as much as 30%.

    The DSR, first created in 2004 has noted several shifts in directory usage during the past 2 years. First, several hundred new directories have been introduced into the most competitive markets. These new, primarily independent directories are gaining usage shares at the expense of the more established utility directories. The impact upon usage is felt primarily in ZIP Codes in which 4 or more directories have been distributed.

    Second, there have been thousands of re-scopes during the past 2 years that have turned usage shares up-side-down. Re-scopes not only impact usage of the re-scoped directory but the usage of all competitive directories as well. DSR updates uasge data quarterly so that CMRs and publishers can evaluate the impact of directory additions, terminations and re-scopes.

    DSR will be doing field-work again in the Spring of 2006 and will use the 2006 survey to update the DSR.

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