A year ago, my colleagues Neal Polachek and Charles Laughlin predicted that Internet Yellow Pages as a percentage of total U.S. Yellow Pages revenues would climb from about 6 percent in 2006 to 24 percent in 2011. While the base is higher in most coutries outside the U.S., the trend is the same. The issue becomes whether the convenience and ubiquity of a print Yellow Pages directory will translate online. Even among diehard users of print directories, there is only so much space in a home or business that someone is willing to allot to a large book. The battle in print tends to be one of distribution; online the fight is for awareness, ease of use and the consumer experience.
Users who are seeking a product or service have a choice between print and online. If the choice is print, there generally are only a few places the consumer will go. On the other hand, if the decision is to search online, there are two dozen choices the user has every time he or she makes a local search.
Earlier this week, I called Pat Marshall, chief new media officer of Yellow Book, to discuss what Yellowbook.com is doing to position itself to claim market share in IYP. Marshall has been toiling in the IYP field since at least 1994 when he was creating and then running Superpages.com for GTE before the company became part of Verizon and now Idearc. He spoke eloquently and forcefully about the opportunities that are available to Yellowbook.com as it develops products that meet the needs of consumers, advertisers and corporate stakeholders. What was most encouraging to me was not so much the specific plans Marshall’s team is developing, although there certainly is an urgency to establish a position in the market. More importantly, Yell Group CEO John Condron has made a commitment to the corporation’s Internet activities in the U.S., the U.K. and Spain. This is backed up by “communication conduits” between the three parties that will facilitate growth in all three markets.
At the end of the day, execution is critical to Yellowbook.com’s success, but Marshall has made it clear he has the backing of the corporation for needed implementation.