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A group of print Yellow Pages executives speaking at Directional Media Strategies 2008 challenged the notion that print usage and revenue growth are no longer realistic objectives. Jo Lynne Whiting of Sensis in Australia and Mike Brugman of Local Insight Media gave presentations that made similar points — print is still used, and there is still an opportunity to grow usage and revenue through a combination of innovation and execution.

Brugman emphasized the importance of “linkages” — creating a need in one medium or channel that drives need for another. He cited the external example of Disney, which connects its movies, theme parks, online and television content, and the children’s phenomenon Webkinz, which brings life to terrestrial stuffed animals via an online avatar. In Yellow Pages, this can mean things like driving print users to the Web or a mobile device to download coupons or special offers, as one example.

Whiting gave a brief recap of the Sensis success story, recently covered by The Kelsey Group, in which the publisher stood among an increasingly small group of publishers to grow print revenues. For its most recently completed financial year, the publisher grew its revenues 5.4 percent.

Whiting emphasized the role that information-rich ads played in turning the corner from a company that was losing print users and revenues, particularly in Yellow Pages, to one that was able to restore growth.

As part of its print turnaround effort, effected over the past year, Sensis trained sales reps and ad designers to build ads that are organized to drive purchase behavior more effectively than in the past. Whiting made the statement that a properly designed ad can make a two to 10 times difference in the response to an ad.

When asked to name their favorite print innovations over the past decade, the panel all cited the companion directory as the innovation that has had the greatest impact on print in recent years.

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