Internet Yellow Pages, Small Businesses and Video

It seems to me that precious little has been written about the fact that, according to the March 19 issue of eMarketer, four national portals  Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL  have seen their share of total Internet advertising spend rise from 47 percent in 2004 to 57 percent last year. What makes this more significant is that these brands are growing in the midst of extremely rapid growth in online advertising. In other words, they are getting a bigger share of a bigger pie. The reason, eMarketer postulates, is that these brands are familiar, comfortable and offer something for everyone that will attract a certain type of advertiser and consumer.

Meanwhile Internet Yellow Pages have also been enjoying growth in absolute dollars, but at the same time they have been losing market share of advertising despite their strong local position, their recognized brands, their feet on the street and their relationships with small businesses.

Of course a great deal of online advertising dollars are also going to national merchants that have a strong brick-and-mortar presence. They are able to communicate promotions, sales and other “special deals” to their regular customers who shop either in their stores or online. Anybody who goes into a major store these days and pays with a credit card has to specifically ask not to be put on a company’s marketing list.

I went into Sears to buy a refrigerator for our office, and until recently I have been receiving as many as three e-mails a day from their marketing department. (These have stopped since I unsubscribed.)

The obvious question for anyone trying to compete for online ad dollars (not to mention consumers’ eyeballs) is, how can a local merchant compete? As my colleague Michael Boland put it so well in his summary of the Drilling Down on Local ’07 conference for Search Engine Watch, the answer may very well be video. Ironically, the mode of communicating with consumers that has always been seen as the most expensive approach may now put them on even footing with the big guys. We see Internet Yellow Pages and small businesses to be powerful partners.

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