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DDC today was packed full of sessions — the morning containing mostly keynotes and the afternoon divided into smaller breakouts. After introductory remarks from John Kelsey, conference chairperson Charles Laughlin took the podium to lay the groundwork for the biggest issues facing the directory publishing industry (also outlined below).

Revenues for print directories overall have been flat over the past few years, he pointed out, though you may have a different perspective depending on where you sit. Many subsectors are growing including independent publishers in some U.S. markets where there is different user behavior, and with some overseas publishers. Overall the industry shows strong sustainability over time though.

Continuing to invest in the print product while keeping an eye on (and an investment level in) emerging products and distribution strategies is important. There is not yet enough of an opportunity in many secondary products to risk losing core print revenues (many online and mobile advertising models, it was pointed out throughout the day, possess lower margins). But consumer usage and advertiser behavior is increasingly shifting toward new technologies, so print publishers' investments in them are important.

Dennis Payne, president and CEO of Directory Operations at AT&T, gave the first keynote address during which he stressed his company's commitment to work on convergence and integration of its product line, with a particular emphasis on Coopetition with portal giants is also important for IYP sustainability, according to Payne.

"They are great marketing machines and they have great usage. We can build off of this strength, optimize traffic and work on ways to partner to distribute content," he said.

IPTV, being a huge investment for AT&T, also plays a big part of Payne's vision of directory operations at the company.

"My vision is that as that service takes off, we will serve up our Yellow Pages content database through it," he said. "You will be able to search for pizza or home repair and get it right through the handset. We are working on this and have it built. We are beyond the prototype stage and the investment level is there." Deploying the technology, its infrastructure and building the customer base are the next steps before it becomes a reality.

Payne also stressed the importance of sales automation to help the rep in the field. There is too much data, he contended, that is difficult to manage. It should be a priority to catalog this data in a way that simplifies the job of the sales rep.

TMP Directional Marketing CEO Stuart McKelvey gave a keynote that stressed the value perceived by the SME across various print and online ad media. There is a great deal of confusion among advertisers, he posited, about how to leverage a marketing budget, given the choices available.

There is flat growth in lookups, McKelvey stated, but when you combine print and online Yellow Pages, there is overall growth. So although lookups are fragmented, they are indeed growing. Then when you add online local searches through search engines (those defined as having a search term and a geographic modifier such as a ZIP code), total lookups increase significantly.

Internet marketing is also very conducive to directional marketing, McKelvey pointed out, because it is based on a pull (like a YP lookup). However, there is a great deal of latency and confusion inherent in tracking search behavior to conversions. Seventy percent of conversions from search happen offline, according to McKelvey (comScore has similar data), while the figure for IYPs is 85 percent. For print Yellow Pages, however, the number is 100 percent, so there is less confusion for businesses to have their ad spend turn into calls and conversions. Along these lines, ROI over time and averaged across the industry has held strong at $13 returned for every $1 spent on advertising, McKelvey pointed out.

Tomorrow will pack in three keynote addresses from Paolo Cellini, executive vice president, Internet for Italian directory publisher Seat Pagine Gialle; Sieg Fischer, president and CEO of Valley Yellow Pages; and Ike Harris, president, Advertising & Publishing Group for BellSouth Corp. Check back in for announcements and comments made from the podium, which we’ll report here.

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