Each year the ADP midyear convention and ADM annual meeting are held in the same location with the overlap of a giant industry-wide cocktail reception one evening and a joint general session the next morning. Since the Yellow Pages Association holds a board meeting before the cocktail reception, many of the industry leaders end up at this combined affair. What this does is give the annual attendee a chance to gauge the industry temperature. Each of these events had well thought-out agendas, executed smoothly with a clear call to action. The only disappointment was that attendance wasn’t higher.
Richard Zurawski of Telmetrics, who often asks penetrating questions that get to the heart of the matter, asked me what I saw that was different this year. In my view, there is now an overwhelming acceptance of new technologies and recognition by even the smallest of publishers and agencies that to succeed, maybe even to survive, they need to offer Internet Yellow Pages and online services to their customers.
Sieg Fischer of Valley Yellow Pages has long been a holdout in the electronic world, but he is now working with Information Pages and has all 46 of his books online. His particular approach is to charge advertisers 10 percent of the print price for an electronic ad. In a short period of time, electronic now accounts for 4 percent of his total revenues. Sieg, who is the current ADP chairman, told the audience that he has gone “from the ultimate cynic to a true believer” in online services. His leadership role and enthusiastic commitment has made every publisher sit up and pay attention.
The same message came across from Stuart McKelvey, chairman of the ADM and CEO of TMP Directional Marketing. Stuart said that “this is the place where we come together to network, to redefine the CMR communities’ understanding of local search and to put a stake in the ground to develop a plan to adopt and survive in a fragmented and rapidly shifting world.” Using the research that TMP conducted with comScore, Stuart drove home the importance of every company making a commitment to technology. For TMP, the Internet accounts for 17 percent of revenues and 25 percent of profits.
I heard much less about internal competition and much more about the challenge of Google, Yahoo!, the verticals and other Web sites trying to steal the advertiser’s dollar. The Kelsey Group has long believed that the single greatest challenge we face is the perception of Yellow Pages on the part of the advertiser and the end-user, particularly younger consumers. Based on these two trade association meetings, it appears that there is more agreement about the substantial mutual benefit of cooperative action and/or the aggregation of resources.
The Kelsey Group’s conference on the Future of Yellow Pages, Sept. 17-19, in Reston, Virginia, is going to build on these messages.