A day many thought would never arrive has come. Valley Yellow Pages, led by noted online skeptic Sieg Fischer, has launched an online Yellow Pages directory, dubbed myyp.com. The company used technology vendor Information Pages to build the online directory, which went live in June. Valley went with a look and feel solution, which is a common entry-level approach for an independent publisher.
Fischer has long been tagged as a leading Luddite of the U.S. Yellow Pages industry. For years he challenged the idea that publishers, particularly independents, “had” to be online.
The characterization of Fischer as being anti-technology is unfair, in my view. He simply felt the ROI from launching a new print book or hiring more salespeople was always higher than investing in an IYP platform. Like any good businessperson, he puts his money where he thinks it will do the most good.
Last year, Fischer delivered a keynote address at our DDC2006 conference in Los Angeles. He was in full skeptic mode, while still offering a faint glimmer of hope to the IYP platform sales executives hanging on his every word. “I will participate in [IYP] in the foreseeable future, but the shift isn’t there yet,” Fischer told the audience.
Apparently now the shift is there, or Fischer sees it coming soon enough. While many have scratched their heads at Fischer’s attitude over the years, I think he has been smarter than the (self-proclaimed) digital elite have given him credit for being. I don’t think he should have waited much longer than he did to invest in an online solution. More and more we hear that SMEs are asking Yellow Pages sales reps about online products, and having nothing to show them will become a crippling disadvantage, particularly in larger markets. Still, it is hard to argue that Valley Yellow Pages is at a disadvantage today for waiting this long to invest compared with an independent of similar size that has been investing in IYP for years.
Update: July 20, 2007
I spoke with Sieg Fischer yesterday. He said there was no epiphany or “aha” moment that led him to decide to finally invest in an online product. He just figured it was time. And he hasn’t changed his view that reports of the death of print have been and continue to be wildly exaggerated.
Valley spent a while deciding which approach to take and which vendor to work with. Fischer said that Information Pages’ ability to paginate on the fly was a key factor.
He added that the sales force was eager to have something new, particularly something new and digital, to sell.
“It is an emotional boost to the sales force,” Fischer said. “And that was a contributing factor.”
Fischer said he decided to go with a pricing plan based on a percentage of the print advertiser’s program, rather than a flat fee. Sales haven’t been going for very long, and he said only that so far there has been “good acceptance.”
Information Pages is still in the process of uploading all Valley’s directories onto myyp.com. He says they’ve completed about 20 books so far, and Valley currently has 46 directory titles, all in California, according to the latest edition of TKG’s Global Yellow Pages report.