Future Search: Where Will We Be in Five Years?

DMS ’08 concluded with a “big thinker” panel and a format that batted around questions in the form of “in five years … ”

Panelists:

Geoff Avard, GM, Strategy, Sensis

Perry Evans, President, CEO, Local Matters

Sebastien Provencher, Cofounder, VP Product Management, Praized Media

Ken Ray, VP and CMO, AT&T Publishing & Advertising

The panel was more forthright than usual for a composition of public companies (half the panel). It was a reality check on real issues that will face local search and Yellow Pages in the foreseeable future. The list of questions and predictions was designed to be provocative and controversial to really flesh out the issues and get the panel and the audience talking. Here are a few:

In five years … SEM bid pressure will rise to the point that advertisers will see more value in print advertising.

Ken Ray: “Online is like Los Angeles. Everyone found out it was a great place to live and everyone moved there and now it’s too crowded; 16-lane highways isn’t my idea of the best place to live. The same is happening with search advertising. The next few years will see a confluence of three things that the Yellow Pages needs to do to be a relevant source of leads. The pricing models have to change and involve hybrid pay-for-performance pricing. Second, retain the usefulness of content by integrating URLs, e-mail, texting and other calls to action. There are a whole set of things we’re already seeing in Europe and Japan in terms of using the cellphone as a transactional device. Lastly, we need to work on distribution and get the book out there better. It’s still easy to use and it’s a darn good way to make a purchase.”

In five years … small businesses will use self-service online advertising like AdWords to a much greater degree.

Ken Ray: “That’s wildly unrealistic. What business owners tell you they will do and what they actually do is rarely the same. They will tell you that they track calls, too. And they make service calls on weekends. Self service works for some things but not others. Can you self provision a bold ad? Yes. Can you reliably self provision a more involved campaign, no. We need to step in to provide a consultative role and be the trusted marketing advisor.

Perry Evans: “If self provisioning takes over, the [Yellow Pages] industry will have failed itself. Many SMBs don’t want to self service and if they do, it’s because they aren’t being served. A lot of technology will come into play in online ad placements, but it shouldn’t be in picking the ad, but rather in tracking and reporting.”

In five years … like many of the rumors that continue to circulate, Google will have bought a Yellow Pages publisher to gain a direct local sales channel.

Sebastien Provencher: “It won’t happen. It’s too much of a cultural clash. Microsoft may be more plausible. They’ve been investing in local search assets over the past 12 months.

Ken Ray:  “The question comes down to how Google wants to distribute its sales organization: to buy, build or partner. They’re already partnering today. Buying would be a huge cultural clash. If I were Google, I might build it myself.”

Geoff Avard: “It’s not entirely out of the question. Google doesn’t want to be one channel and they’re moving into lots of other media like radio. The more [Yellow Pages] become multi-channel, the more attractive we’ll be to Google.

In five years … no one under 30 will be using the Yellow Pages.

Perry Evans: “I hope it doesn’t matter. It’s not a print issue but more about the industry adapting to be a source of local content. It’s not just a question of users looking at yellow paper.”

In five years … more listings will be accessed by mobile than on the PC.

Ken Ray: “Location awareness will be important and we’ll have more and more listings on mobile search applications. It took [our mobile search product] five months to get 1 million visitors. It took us five years to do that online. The iPhone will be important. Data use on the iPhone is 60 times what it is on other mobile devices.

Sebastien Provencher: “It’s not really the iPhone itself that will change everything but what iPhone has done to open up the market. There will be many other devices that replicate what the iPhone is doing. The jack is out of the box and there is no going back. In five years, everyone is going to be using more advanced mobile products.”

In five years … what will follow the iPhone as the next big thing?

Perry Evans: “A device that provides a GPS stream that is always on to record the ‘polygon’ of your life. This could have the ability to say where you’ve been and where you’re likely to go and what you’re likely to do when you get there. The ability to leverage that data to deliver targeted content could be huge.”

In five years … where will you be?

Sebastien Provencher: “I will still be working in local search. It’s still growing and it will continue to be the most exciting space.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jeff Porter

    I think the first response under “more listings will be accessed by mobile than on the PC” above was Geoff and not Ken. He was referring to Sensis’ mobile site.

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