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Sensis, Australia’s largest directory publisher, recently released first-half results from its 2007-2008 financial year (ending June 30), which show solid growth of its print products. White Pages in particular grew 9.9 percent in the first half, an improvement over its 8.1 percent growth a year earlier. Print Yellow Pages also showed a real turnaround, growing 0.2 percent, compared with a 2.5 percent decline a year before.

Sensis credits a number of factors in improving print results, including a major emphasis on proving the value of print Yellow Pages, backed up by 4,000 metered ads provisioned throughout Australia.

Although TKG’s recently issued forecast projects an overall decline in print directories, Australia is one market where we expect modest growth in print. While Sensis faces relatively little print directory competition, it still grapples with many of the same issues as other publishers, including online competition and challenging major metro markets. One caution on these first-half print results is that much of the publisher’s major metro titles are recognized in the second half of the financial year.

That said, Sensis’ results demonstrate how paying attention to sales skills and proving value can move the needle in print. Publishers that decide to harvest print and focus all their energy online will likely accelerate migration faster than they can manage, risking negative overall growth. Publishers that see value in investing in print as they build out their online business, even if only to reduce the rate of decline, will have a better chance of experiencing positive multi-product revenue growth.

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