Jules: AT&T Embracing Shifts in Directional Media

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Frank Jules believes there is a clear shift from print to online taking place. And the best way for publishers to make a successful transition is to move from selling individual products to selling a bundle of products based on the number of calls or leads they can be expected to deliver.

As president and CEO of AT&T Advertising & Publishing, Jules runs the world’s largest Yellow Pages company. He will be one of the featured speakers at The Kelsey Group’s upcoming Directional Media Strategies event, Sept. 15-17 in Atlanta.

Last year, revenues topped US$5.8 billion, though they are tracking lower this year in part due to the sale of The Berry Co. assets, which closed in the second quarter. AT&T Advertising & Publishing posted its first-half results July 23, in which robust online growth failed to completely offset a sharp decline in print revenues.

In a recent interview with TKG, Jules was asked if current challenges were more cyclical (economy) or secular (migration to online), Jules had this response:

“AT&T believes there is a big move to the Internet. We are showing 40 percent growth on Internet in terms of Yellowpages.com, and continuing growth in terms of monthly searches. We will probably have north of 2 billion searches on YPC in 2008. So we see incredible growth and incredible migration to the Internet, being driven by mobile search, mobile search devices, broadband, Wi-Fi, WiMax, etc. We are embracing that growth. And we are finding that it is going to be good for our business long term.”

Jules went on to make it very clear that print is and will remain a strong component of the business, particularly in markets with lower broadband penetration. He added that the industry is clearly shifting from a business model predicated on perceived value to one based on quantifiable leads across media channels.

“Our view is, it’s a bundle. If you bundle print, if you bundle Internet, if you bundle what we call search engine solutions; helping a small business get identified when someone goes on the Web, that is what we believe is the answer. Getting our sales reps so they are able to tell that story; getting them trained, making sure they are equipped, making sure they have all of the economics of the value and the return on each of those various media and platforms.”

In the wide-ranging interview with TKG, Jules discussed how the industry and AT&T are shifting from a print-focused to a multi-channel business, and the implications this has operationally. Jules also said that AT&T Advertising & Publishing has high expectations for mobile search. Parent company AT&T has made a big bet on the iPhone as a transformational device that will spur consumers to do more than just make calls and send text messages with their mobile phone.

“What we know from the iPhone experience, which is that when you have a world-class mobile device, which makes Web access and search easy, people will use it. And that is going to continue to grow and grow,” Jules said. “As a device to do search, it blows away everything else in the marketplace.”

Also on the program at DMS ’08 is David Yoo, chief product officer, Yellowpages.com. Yoo will talk about YPC’s efforts in mobile search on the panel, “Mobile Local Search — What’s the Role for Yellow Pages Publishers?”

Click here to listen to extended audio clips from the Jules interview.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Basil Berntsen

    I agree that there’s a shift from print to online, but I don’t believe that bundling is the answer. If the market is moving online, the products should as well. Sales reps telling a story about bundling to advertisers will not change the rules of supply and demand, and these rules are dictating that advertisers get more bang for their buck and consumers find better information faster online.

    I understand where this is coming from- it’s hard to look at an reliable profit generator you’ve built that’s operated for years get replaced almost overnight by something as ethereal as the internet. Unfortunately, this problem is endemic to any media business that based their market share on having a monopoly on the distribution. Newspapers are under attack from blogs, classifieds are losing market share to Craiglist and EBay, and the Yellow Pages are starting to lose market share to local business search engines like Brownbook.net.

  2. Bruce Henry

    What Mr. Jules does not say is that in many markets advertisers are forced to buy a package
    of print and internet.
    Also the turnover is somewhere between 30-40 percent for reps.

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