My colleague Neal Polachek and I just got off the phone with the leadership team at the Australian publisher Sensis, who walked us through its half-year results ended Dec. 31. We continue to marvel at how successful Sensis has been at growing revenue across all its channels, while most publishers around the world struggle to maintain equilibrium as the print business suffers steep declines.
Here are the key figures:
- Total revenues up 8.5 percent, compared with 7.2 percent for the year-ago period. This includes results from the company’s fast growing Chinese operation (a story unto itself for another time).
- Total White Pages and Yellow Pages print and online growth of 5.9 percent.
- White Pages print growth of 11.6 percent.
- White Pages online growth of 87.5 percent.
- Total Yellow Pages (print and online) growth of 3 percent.
- Online Yellow Pages and search growth of 21 percent.
- Print Yellow Pages growth of 0.4 percent.
The weak link here of course is print Yellow Pages, but Sensis points out that the first half of its financial year is weighted to big markets while the second half is weighted to regional markets. Without giving any specific guidance, this seems to suggest a better second half and full year for print YP in Australia.
It’s hard to argue with these results, particularly in light of the bloodletting we are seeing in print in most regions. Sensis has been working for about two years on raising the level of execution across all aspects of the business — sales, marketing, production, customer support, distribution and so on. They have not left a stone unturned and they continue to invest in an effort to sustain these results. For example, the company increased its print distribution by 5 percent during the first half.
We’ve written extensively about the Sensis story in the past. What is clear is that so far at least, the company’s success is not a fluke.
If we see a potential weakness, it might be in the explosive growth of White Pages, which may not be sustainable over the long haul. Sensis has devoted a lot of attention to marketing White Pages, and to articulating its unique value proposition. it is also significant that White Pages is sold through a dedicated sales channel.
You have to tip your hat to Sensis. Time will tell how sustainable it all is, but for now at least, Sensis is the beacon of the global Yellow Pages industry.