U.S. Associations Move Toward Merger

According to an article appearing in this month’s Association of Directory Marketing Flash newsletter, the three major U.S. directory industry trade associations are moving in the direction of a merger. In August, the ADM board hired a consultant, Charles Rumbarger, to review the feasibility of combining the ADM with the Yellow Pages Association (the largest of the three) and the Association of Directory Publishers (which represents independent publishers).

The ADM article and a note sent out today by ADP President Larry Angove emphasized that the process is still in the early stages and no decisions have been made. At this point it is unclear if there is equal enthusiasm for a merger among the three organizations. The ADM board, led by TMP Directional Marketing CEO Stuart McKelvey, clearly sees merit in the idea, and the companies on the YPA board have long favored consolidating the industry trade groups.

This is not the first time the trade groups have talked about a merger. Several times in the past, discussions have taken place, only to break down. Whether this time is different remains to be seen, but the rationale for a merger seems pretty clear. First, the industry is consolidating and will continue to do so, making it more difficult for trade associations to sustain themselves. Second, internal competition isn’t going away, but also is not the industry’s biggest challenge. Competition from other media is. Finally, the industry needs a coordinated approach on several key challenges, including promoting the category and combating regulatory threats such as the recent spate of efforts to force publishers to adopt opt-in programs or otherwise limit the amount of paper they produce.

So we will see what happens with this latest effort, but we won’t be surprised if this time it sticks.

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