Dispatch From Orlando

The Magic is Back, and don’t let anyone tell you different.

Here at the Yellow Pages Association’s annual confab, there is a general air of optimism about the industry. It’s sort of the same feeling people get when they anticipate a big storm, batten all the hatches, and when it is all said and done, there is just a little water damage in the basement. When you look at this business now, revenues are a bit better than flat, usage is more or less stable, and profits are holding steady. For many, the picture is a lot better than that. Either way, that ain’t so bad for a business that has heard its imminent demise predicted since the ’70s.

Blogger and Web entrepreneur extraordinaire John Batelle tried to burst that bubble a bit in his keynote address this morning, noting that in the Web 2.0 world, the user is king and the most powerful Web plays essentially provide a platform for users to create their own content. Think eBay; think MySpace. His term was "the architecture of participation." Yellow Pages publishers must do ratings and reviews, he contended, something we will keep hearing more and more until publishers start doing it on a widespread basis.

One of his most powerful arguments came, however, when he compared his online directory experience on Google and Yahoo! with his experience on SuperPages.com and YellowPages.com. It was a contrast between one search box and a relevant result versus multiple boxes and more noise in the results. What he missed is the degree to which IYPs have improved, but his point is well taken. Yellow Pages publishers cannot afford to pale by comparison online in their own wheelhouse, which is connecting buyers and sellers locally.

We will have more to say about what was said, and left unsaid, at the YPA event in this week’s Local Media Journal.

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