Back in the not-so-old days, the rule of thumb for a Regional Bell Operating Company was that Yellow Pages accounted for approximately 10 percent of revenues and 20 percent of net profit for the corporation. This meant an RBOC could count on a steady stream of cash to fund its other businesses. Because publishers faced relatively little competition from other Yellow Pages companies, they were able to price the product in a way that would maximize their returns.
On the other hand, most independent publishers were (and still are) focused primarily, if not exclusively, on the directory business. They are able to compete by charging a rate that is typically half what the incumbent publisher charges. They also compete by scoping differently and by offering smaller directories that fit neatly on top of the incumbent's book in the kitchen drawer. Not surprisingly, there is often trench warfare between the competing sales forces that leads to animosity.
Volt Information Sciences is an exception. Volt's primary business is staffing services, which accounted for 82 percent of the company's fiscal 2005 net revenues. The telephone directory segment's sales, including their DataNational "Community PhoneBook" brand, accounted for less than 4 percent of the company's sales but almost 19 percent of its total operating profit. Clearly, this is a critical business for Volt.
The telephone directory segment grew last year by $10 million to $82.3 million through a combination of expansion and sales growth in its current markets. In fact, "DataNational was one of the first true competitors to incumbent BellSouth Advertising & Publishing in its core area markets," according to our 2005 Global Yellow Pages™ report. DataNational competes against BellSouth in many of the same ways other independents rival incumbents, but the rancor does not seem to exist. DataNational CEO Jerry DiPippo is on the YPA board. Vice President of Sales Greg Shearer said that competition was good for the marketplace and that BAPCO was a tough but fair competitor.
DataNational also offers an online Yellow Pages site, http://www.communitybook.com. It doesn't yet offer national search capabilities but rather listings for specific DataNational directories. We expect to see enhanced and expanded IYP and local search over the next year. In the meantime, Volt is an example of a company that doesn't always think that it's "we vs. they."