Yellow Pages Today Focuses on White Pages (Part 1)

The focus of the Yellow Pages Today April workshop was on White Pages with the underlying theme of how the product can survive and the regulatory environment that will either help or hinder its growth or decline.

The opening session with Stephanie Verilhac, EADP EU affairs officer, covered the current state of the EU privacy directives as well as the upcoming 2007 Telecom Review. The core message is that several of the EU states have fulfilled the goal of opening up competition and have been omitted from the 2002 regulations while seven countries will remain under regulation until competition advances to an acceptable level. The privacy regulations continue to affect the major online portals, which must turn to partners like Yellow Pages publishers to gain access to local databases or build their own.

Following Verilhac was Claude Merchand from PagesJaunes who spoke from a publisher perspective on how the EU directives and regulations are affecting his organization. One of the key challenges is the relationship PagesJaunes has with France Telecom in what content to include in the book and how to structure the revenue agreements. Merchand sees a day when it might be possible to operate separately from the telecom in delivering a Universal White Pages.

Up next was Dolf Weiler, marketing director for De Telefoongids, who pointed out that White Pages is no longer just print and that his organization is actively investing in broadening the White Pages portfolio. Weiler said as long as publishers are willing to invest in and experiment with White Pages, it can continue to be successful. One key sales point he made was that 25 percent of the population in the Netherlands does not use online to look up local business information, which means WP is better suited to reach the majority of the buying audience since it has print, online and mobile products that reach nearly 100 percent of the population.

One dilemma pointed out in the presentation is that people want to be able to find any person or business but are reluctant to provide their own personal or business data, which makes the completeness of the database a continual challenge. When talking about the notion of sharing data with mojor portals such as Google and MSN, Weiler warned, “Be wary of handing the crown jewels to your greatest competitor.”

Via video conference, John Hillrich of Idearc shared his company’s strategy of expanding the WP concept to include direct mail and a new mover product called Solutions on the Move. While not a major revenue driver for Idearc at 4 percent of revenue, it remains a valuable product to leverage additional AVO to lift overall spend.

The final presentation of the morning was from Sensis’ Melissa Reynolds and Geoff Hoffmann, who outlined the publisher’s energized strategy toward White Pages that led to an unprecedented 10.3 percent gain in the first half of 2008. One of their key points was the new focus Sensis has had on developing a sales process and differentiating the White Pages product from the major portals. The publisher has zeroed in on the consumers need for information in the White Page products and how that can lead to product innovation and increased usage and sales.

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