Earlier this week I was rereading the transcript of the Nordic directory publisher Eniro’s Q4 2006 earnings call, and I paid a bit more attention to an item I had glossed over the first time through, when I was more concerned with growth rates, EBITDA and so on.
During the Q&A session, there was a fairly extensive discussion of an environmental movement that has cropped up in Norway urging consumers to contact Eniro to register that they do not want to receive a print Yellow Pages directory. This was picked up by the Norwegian government, which is advocating an “opt-in” system over universal distribution, again based on environmental concerns.
According to Eniro CEO Tomas Franzin, 100,000 of the 2.6 million households receiving print books in Norway sent a message to the publisher that they would prefer not to receive the print product. Franzin’s view was that 100,000 out of 2.6 million is a small number, and these are probably mostly households that do not use the book, so there is no real loss.
He may be right, of course. Yet the persistent questioning on the topic from the financial analysts on the earnings call suggests they were concerned this spark might erupt into a firestorm of consumers opting out of print.
Scandinavia is always an interesting region to watch. Nordic publishers were among the earliest to build meaningful online products, and the region is certainly on the leading edge of migrating usage and revenues from print to online. Will it also be at the leading edge of a green movement to eliminate the print product, at least for all but the most committed users? Too early to say, but I found this exchange, buried in the earnings transcript, very intriguing.