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Mobile directory managers from four major global publishers laid out how their mobile products are evolving in a panel billed as an examination of Mobile Search & Yellow Pages: The Business Model.

Some key takeaways:

  • The stars are aligning for mobile. Device penetration is expanding. The performance characteristics of mobile are strong, notably a strong local affinity (one data point cited was that local intent for mobile search was about three times that of Web search) and good conversion metrics. Add to this the rapid decline in landline penetration and it seems obvious that mobile is a key area of investment going forward.
  • The focus remains on building traffic, rather than discreet mobile directory revenue.
  • That said, monetization opportunities are emerging — including pay per action, coupons and banner ads.

Here are some highlights from the presentations:

Deborah Eldred, Director, Mobile & Personalization, R.H. Donnelley

  • Mobile is important because it drives engagement and leads.
  • Local can “drive revenue from day one if you have a leads-based program.”
  • In developing mobile products, “less is more. Focus on relevance and performance, because mobile users are impatient.”

Peter Schwab, Director, Mobile Products, Idearc Media

  • Mobile directory developers should “land and expand” and develop for as many platforms as possible (iPhone, Android, Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, etc.)
  • “Give users a voice.” Idearc was among the first to allow users to post as well as read reviews from the mobile site, using a simple thumbs up/thumbs down feature.
  • It is critical to measure everything — not by applying Web metrics to mobile, but rather using metrics more relevant to mobile. He cited lifetime of user, average revenue per user and total acquisition cost as key metrics.
  • Look for non-Yellow Pages revenue. Find sources of revenue that are not tied to the Yellow Pages model, for example CPM ads, coupons and sponsorships.
  • Embrace social media. Idearc has been an early adopter in this area, recently launching the SP411 Twitter application.

Min Chen, GM & Director of Mobile Products, AT&T Interactive

  • Mobile local is already big, accounting for 30 percent of mobile Web search.
  • The three pillars of a mobile product are content (listings and profile info, and more recently event info), context (location) and contact (ability to connect or interact with merchants).
  • Monetization opportunities include inclusion, pay per call, pay per action and video.

David Pearce, Head of Mobile Services, Yell Group

  • “In the United Kingdom, mobile is now a mainstream digital channel.”
  • Yell recently launched an app through the U.K. iPhone App Store, and in a week’s time it became the leading free download in its category and the No. 3 free download overall.
  • At Yell, mobile revenue is mixed into the overall digital category. He said he would expect Yell to have more than half its revenue from digital within five years.

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