Recently, I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of publishers of all sizes to get a sense of their perspective on this important issue. My take is that Yellow Pages executives believe there will be a major movement over the next two years. Is this a case of irrational exuberance, especially when the competition is as technically savvy as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL? For instance, YPA President Neg Norton reports that usage of the print product remains essentially flat for the first half of 2005 vs. the same period in 2004. Similarly, overall Yellow Pages revenues are up slightly, tracing to price-ups, strong independent growth and the success of companion directories.
Reinforcing this is the fact that consumers find local products and services in whatever fashion is the easiest and quickest. As good as local search is, users have to be at a terminal and know how to find what they are looking for. For the most part, mobile phones and PDAs have not yet caught on. Importantly, advertisers are used to buying Yellow Pages ads, and they don't want to lose their position in a directory.
For nearly 20 years, The Kelsey Group has been focused on the impact of new technologies on directories and other publishers. Without exception, every traditional media is facing unexpected challenges right now. Yellow Pages publishers are well positioned to continue to be the primary source of bringing local buyers and sellers together. Internet Yellow Pages and local search are improving weekly and are increasingly valuable tools. There is no question that they will begin to take advertiser dollars away from print, but don't look for this to happen overnight.