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Former Citysearch President Briggs Ferguson, who took the helm at Idearc Internet and its flagship about five months ago, said there is tremendous potential for the Yellow Pages industry. Speaking at DMS ’08 in Atlanta, he opined that “it should be much bigger than it is today. At the very least, we get past it as an $8 billion industry. We should see $10 billion online alone. [The whole industry should pull in] the $20 [billion to] $25 billion range.”

Ferguson cautioned that the industry has some major challenges to reach such lofty levels. Among them: how to make sure that YP advertisers get a high volume of leads, lead quality and standardization. “As an industry, we have to get into a genuine lead mind-set.” Regarding standardization: The Yellow Pages industry is suffering through the same issues as the United States did during the industrial revolution, he said.

The gap between online and print monetization also looms large. “Print YP monetizes at $1 a lead. The local search side monetizes at 20 cents,” he estimated. “We need information and data that can move from one box to another box in such a way that can happen very quickly. Without it, it creates an enormous drag on the entire system.”

Online features also need to be intelligently applied. He noted that maps are often inappropriately applied and aren’t always necessary. Moreover, the meta data that comes with listings is very inconsistent. While the incorporation of ratings has been an overall plus for online Yellow Pages, “they haven’t had the impact on the industry that you’d expect.”

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