YPA ’09: Malcolm Gladwell Talks Yellow Pages
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, the man behind top business tomes such as “The Tipping Point,” “Blink” and now “Outliers,” spoke today at the Yellow Pages Association conference in San Diego, suggesting that Yellow Pages publishers’ advantage over Google and others is their “deep trust” with advertisers — something he may have picked up at a YPA breakfast before his speech.
Recognizing that the industry has been disrupted by technology trends and other factors, Gladwell provided three general lessons that allow a David to beat a Goliath. To paraphrase:
1- Don’t exaggerate the challenges. Sometimes a series of thoughtful, little steps can change the course of events. Everyone said New York City would require a Manhattan Project to recover from its desolate state in the early 1990s. But it only took three years and relatively small initiatives such as community policing, he noted.
2- Reframe the issue. Yellow Pages can’t be seen as an obsolete big fat book. Look at how the iPod won by being turned into a fashion statement instead of a complex technological advance.
3- Leverage “social connectors.” A small percentage of people who review products, check prices and stimulate interest in a product are always a major key to success.
“If you are willing to challenge convention and work harder, you can win,” said Gladwell. It was a privilege to hear him (and have him autograph some copies of “Outliers”).
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The yellow pages industry is the David to Google’s Goliath? That’s an interesting way of looking at things. It seems to me that Google is David and happens to be beating the YP Goliath. And there are other Davids to the YP Goliath such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Angie’s List, and Craigslist.