The traditional print directory has been under fire over the past few years, but panelists at DMS ’09 feel there is new life in the print book as it moves from its stagnant 1.0 version to become more usable and consumer focused. It’s important to point out that while the perception remains that directories are dying, they are still a dominant leads source and business driver for small and medium-sized businesses. Directory revenues remain on average 80 percent of publisher’s revenues, and directories are the dominant media source driving the highest number of calls and visits.
As Michelle Sherwood, GM of marketing for Sensis put it, “we are not seeing the death spiral many have predicted for the print directory.”
The print directory is slowly evolving into a new YP2.0 format that is more flexible and hyperlocal to address the changing needs of consumers and localized businesses. Publishers are seeking ways to make the directory access points more relevant to the local consumer.
Sherwood pointed out, “The key to relevance is offering consumers a choice on how they want to access the book or the content whether that is in the form of a local book or a smaller size directory, or one designed for use in the car. It’s a matter of getting the right book to the right people who have a desire to use the content.”
Abram Andrzejewski, CEO of HomePages Directories, said, “directories can address the geographic needs of consumers who want localized information not easily found online since hyperlocal data might be very limited.”
Hyperlocal books seek to meet the needs of smaller geographic neighborhood or sections of cities in a way that offers true local content that builds a more intimate relationship with consumers since it delivers content such as local ordinances, profiles of local leaders, events not generally covered elsewhere and other content generated by local entities.
YP2.0 is characterized by more simplified headings that may reflect how people are searching on other forms of media such as online or mobile. In hyperlocal books, the product set is more limited and offered at a price point that reflects the distribution and a geography that makes sense to localizes businesses that may have a single location or limited trading area.
According to Andrzejewski, “larger directories in major urban markets could do the same thing by breaking down their books into more hyperlocal books and let the advertiser choose the postal codes that make sense to them and link to the communities where they are known and relevant.”
Both panelists concluded that directory organizations need be willing to experiment and invest in their print products.
As Sherwood put it, “we need to keep investing in the product, looking for ways to innovate based on consumer research, and promote the successes of advertisers so publishers set the perception of success rather than rely on others to downplay its ability to effectively bring buyers and sellers together.”
One other key conclusion was that leads needs to be the new local media currency with the caveat that directory organizations need to be the most effective leads source if they hope to dominate. If directories fail to move on to YP2.0, they may very well continue to follow the downward path. But those that embrace the new 2.0 innovations may be those that see revitalization of their marquee product.