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At a time when telcos like Verizon are divesting their Yellow Pages unit to help pay for the deployment of IPTV networks, AT&T Directory President Denny Payne makes a passionate case that the parent company ought to keep its Yellow Pages around.

Speaking at The Kelsey Group's Directory Driven Commerce conference in Los Angeles Sept. 19-20, Payne said that "Yellow Pages has never been more relevant to AT&T." He noted that YP must be considered "an integral part of business solutions," which he termed "AT&T's highest priority."

Rather than seeing IPTV as a separate venture, AT&T and other telcos should look at it as an additional channel for YP distribution, along with print, direct mail, the Internet and enhanced directory assistance. The set of channels reflects higher growth prospects and is being called "directional media," as opposed to plain old Yellow Pages.

Currently, there are just 300,000 IPTV customers, but 8.7 million IPTVers are projected by 2010. "The deployment of video services provides critical mass" for YP, said Payne, adding that AT&T's IPTV will have its own channel.

Payne acknowledged, however, that the long-term transformation into directional media will need other inputs beyond IPTV, especially on the sales front. "It is not a simple transformation," he said. The salesperson must become the "customer point person for all data," and "keep track of multiple product lines, lots of various packages."

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