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AT&T Advertising & Publishing CMO Ken Ray, speaking on a panel at Kelsey’s DMS ’08 event this week in Atlanta, said print books have plenty of life in them but that publishers have got to work to make them relevant with “URLs, e-mail, texting … using cellphones as a transactional device … a whole set of things we are already seeing in Europe and Japan.”

On a more basic level, the books just need better distribution. “Using the books is still pretty darn easy,” he said. “But no one is satisfied with the way we get books into the home.”

As for ad sales, Ray is among those who think the Yellow Pages business will remain dependent on live sales reps, rather than self provisioning, which “is wildly unrealistic,” he said.

“They will tell you that they track calls, too. And they make service calls on weekends.” But he thinks the bottom line is: whether we want people to self provision higher-value ads. “I don’t think so,” said Ray. “Are they really going to upsell themselves? We want to be service consultants.”

The biggest part of being a “service consultant” is to bring leads to advertisers, added Ray. “I’d like to say ‘a lead is a lead,’ ” he said. “’Here is what it is worth’. I don’t want to get into different components.”

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