Yesterday, I attended the ADM regional meeting held here in Chicago, where I maintain the Midwest regional office for The Kelsey Group (which consists of me, a computer, phone and a tiny fridge filled with Diet Cokes).
The ADM is in the midst of a road show, which it does every year to update national YP agencies (CMRs) on what is happening in the directory business, particularly issues affecting national advertisers. These issues are many, and many seem never to go away (national surcharges and directory extensions, to offer just two examples).
Of particular interest was a presentation by Burt Michaels of Knowledge Networks/SRI on the new Yellow Pages Market Reporter. Burt offered some detail on what the current syndicated usage measurement service offers, and what it says about what’s happening in local markets. Burt was pitching (in a low-key manner) CMRs to buy the research (13 have to date) and if they have it, to dive deeper into the data with custom reports.
Burt was understandably reluctant to offer too much detail on how share breakdowns occur in local markets, though he did share data on Manhattan that had already been widely disclosed. His overarching comment says a lot about where the print directory business is today.
"Audience fragmentation is a reality that you are going to have to deal with."
While there was an initial wave of dueling press releases on the usage data, what is emerging is the picture Burt lays out. In most markets, audience is spread among two or three or more products. Not always evenly, and as Burt notes, the nature of the audiences isn’t always the same. But one-book buys are probably a thing of the past in most U.S. directory markets.
One apparently touchy point is the fact that just 13 CMRs have bought the research. One questioner at the meeting raised this issue, and the ADM responded by noting the 13 represent 60 percent of national sales. Nonetheless, the question (from a publisher I believe), shows some frustration among publishers that CMRs need to step up more and buy the data they have been asking publishers to produce for several years now. In fairness, most if not all of the most vocal CMRs have already bought the research.