What Is the Potential for Internet Yellow Pages Offered by Print Publishers?

Idearc Media and Yellow Pages Group announced their earnings today, and like R.H. Donnelley maintained their 2007 guidance estimates. As The Kelsey Group had estimated earlier in the year, print revenues are basically flat with growth coming from electronic, vertical and other new products. Idearc, in particular, entered a number of tests and distribution agreements that will allow it to distribute information on multiple platforms.

Here’s what the challenge is, not just for the big dogs, but perhaps more important for the independent publishers as well. In a world where people automatically turn to Google and Yahoo! for all their information needs, how can even the strongest IYP brands compete? One of the reasons Yellow Pages has always been successful is it is there in the kitchen drawer, next to the phone in the den or under the bed in the master bedroom. It is ubiquitous, easy to find and familiar to use. As Kevin Ryan wrote in his excellent Search Engine Watch blog, Yellow Pages and Search, users are getting smarter about how to use search engines not only to get information about a purchase, but also to find a place to buy something.

In the U.S., Internet Yellow Pages offered by print publishers account for only about 4 percent of their revenues. In Europe, publishers have grabbed about 20 percent of the market. Google, Yahoo! and other search engines account for the lion’s share of local searches. The issue we will be discussing over the next month is whether the IYPs offered by print publishers can be sufficiently significant to merit the kind of investment necessary to compete effectively against search engines.

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