Stubbs Executive Interview: Video, UGC and Call Tracking
Yellowpages.com President Charles Stubbs stressed the IYP opportunity with online video, call tracking, social media and IPTV during an SES Chicago appearance this week.
Yellowpages.com is within striking distance to each of these, given the assets and initiatives of parent AT&T (U-verse IPTV program for example) as well as the acquisition of call tracking provider Ingenio, to which Stubbs devoted some air time.
He had previously spent a few minutes at ILM:07 talking about the acquisition and what it means for AT&T, but this time was given a whole hour to expand. During the on-stage interview with Charles Laughlin, Stubbs went into detail about how Ingenio will be a platform for lead tracking that will unify the bundled AT&T value proposition to SMBs, across print, online, wireless and IPTV.
This is interesting because the same bundling at the heart of the triple-play strategy — meant to bring simplicity and cost savings for consumers — is, on the other end, a value proposition for advertisers as well.
“Given print, online, 65 million wireless subscribers and U-verse, a platform for tracking calls generated from all these sources ties it together,” Stubbs said. “Now we can sit down with a plumber and say do you need 30, 60 or 90 calls delivered? We have all the points of inventory to fullfill that.”
Yellow Pages in Motion
SMB video advertising will be an ongoing effort for Yellowpages.com, as it has been for many IYPs over the past year. The company announced during ILM:07 that it will integrate video ads to its listings and offer the capability to its advertisers. This has relevance for a great deal of SMB advertisers who are more interested in local exposure or foot traffic than they are in clicks.
This is the case for a number of verticals that constitute the Yellow Pages industry’s traditional sweet spots, including trade services. Interestingly, it also constitutes a number of verticals that Yellow Pages has traditionally had a harder time getting its arms around, such as restaurants — signaling an opportunity to grow an addressable market.
Stubbs also mentioned that online video is an opportunity to get a head start on building a library of content that can eventually fulfill the massive amounts of ad inventory that will open up through IPTV (read explanation here). Currently on IPTV, there is a Yellowpages.com channel with the ability to search and browse listings, but IPTV will eventually hold much more opportunity.
“Both DA and IPTV are nascent technologies in terms of integrating advertising. But as AT&T moves into IPTV, it is going to get a lot of ad inventory,” Stubbs said. “We think we can upsell and port content into U-verse. If we can get a head start with video ads, we’ll be ready when there is critical mass of U-verse [inventory].”
User-generated content and reviews are also a hot area in local right now and have been a bone of contention for IYPs over the past year. Stubbs has adopted a decidedly bullish stance on reviews not only as a consumer feature but also as a tool for SMBs to better communicate with local consumers and facilitate reputation management.
“We’re launching a promotion to encourage SMBs to embrace reviews,” Stubbs said. “We want to have them value this feedback. This will include a rebuttal process that will allow businesses to rectify a situation that might have caused a negative review. We want to enable SMBs to answer the questions, ‘Can I be better as a business?’ and ‘Can I learn more about my business from my advertising?’ “
The concerns over reviews, expressed in the past by Yellow Book and others, are still on Stubbs’ radar though. These include negative reviews for paying advertisers and also having a lackluster volume of reviews and inconsistency across categories.
“Restaurants dominate reviews. We have to get it to the plumbers and dentists of the world,” Stubbs said. “Our reviews are in the tens of thousands and they need to be in the millions or hundreds of millions. We’re learning how to seed those efforts.”
The Bottom Line
Yellowpages.com is in a fairly unique position. It has a great URL that drives a considerable direct navigation traffic, a breadth of listing content that has a certain degree of SEO benefits, a trusted brand name, a local sales channel, a relationship with Marchex to bundle SEM advertising and landing pages for SMBs, and now a call tracking technology to deliver bundled leads (via calls) across platforms.
As we’ve said in the past, the Ingenio acquisition isn’t the sexiest announcement out there, but it is big. Calls from bundled sources should resonate well with SMBs and are a step toward the lead-generating “platform agnosticism” that publishers keep talking about and, in reality, need to execute.
“These advertisers are busy people trying to make money,” Stubbs said. “If you price the lead right and demonstrate the quality of the lead, SMBs will appreciate the value of the ad bundle. Simplification greases wheels.”