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Earlier today I spoke with Gary Campbell, who runs the new directory operation within CanWest MediaWorks, the Canadian media powerhouse. CanWest just finished distributing its inaugural GoLocal directory in the national capital, Ottawa. What makes the product unique is that it is following a pay-per-call model.

CanWest’s approach goes a step beyond the guaranteed ad program popularized by Metro Directories in the U.S. As Campbell tells us, all ads above the DQC (double-quarter column) level have a metered line attached, and the advertisers pay for each call based on a heading-specific price per call, up to a maximum, which is equal to rate card for that ad size. It is theoretically possible for an advertiser to pay nothing if the ad fails to generate a call.

Campbell, a veteran of previous start-up efforts in Canada, was convinced that this model was necessary to differentiate CanWest in what is becoming a competitive directory environment in Canada.

The directory operation hopes to gain from its affiliation with local newspaper brands. In Ottawa, the book is branded as GoLocal Ottawa, in association with the Ottawa Citizen. CanWest will follow a similar pattern in Regina and Saskatoon, where it is currently canvassing new directories in association with the local newspapers, also using the pay-per-call model. CanWest also has daily newspapers in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal and Windsor.

CanWest has probably gone farther than any directory publisher to date in pushing pay-per-call as a pricing model. While the approach has its perils, it does move the industry toward a model in which customers pay for leads, the sources of which are irrelevant. Such a model potentially sustains print as the foundation of a directory channel as usage gradually shifts from print to online.

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