R.H. Donnelley No More; Enter Dex One

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Less than a month after its peer company Idearc Media emerged from bankruptcy with a new name (SuperMedia) and a new lease on life, R.H. Donnelley has done the same thing. Freshly out of bankruptcy and US$6 billion lighter on its balance sheet, RHD has shed its historic corporate name in favor of DexOne, which will trade on the NYSE as DEXO.

We spoke with DexOne CEO Dave Swanson this morning about the name change, the company’s going forward strategy and the outlook for the small-business economy in 2010.

Right out of the gate the new company is making changes. Besides a new name and a new board of directors, it is also forming new partnerships. Swanson told us DexOne has inked a deal with Yelp to incorporate Yelp reviews into the DexKnows.com IYP.

Swanson told us the name change had several purposes. The first was that the name R.H. Donnelley, for all its history, is too closely tied with the print Yellow Pages business. And Swanson made it clear that, “Strategically our business is no longer Yellow Pages. It is marketing services.”

He added that because the company is the product of so many acquisitions (Sprint, Quest Dex, Business.com), it made sense to get the whole company behind a single name. And finally, the “One” in DexOne is meant to invoke the idea that DexOne is a one-stop solution for small-business advertisers.

The DexOne vision for a sustainable future is similar to what other companies are trying to execute — provide local advertisers with a mixture of advertising and service products that help them drive and manage new business leads.

This means selling everything from print Yellow Pages to its own IYP to others’ IYPs (Yellowpages.com and SuperMedia) to voice, online video, SEM and so on. Then, DexOne takes the complex melange of lead sources and boils it down into simple packages, or “matrixed pricing.” Swanson compares this approach to how cars are sold — there is a base model, a mid-range model and luxury model.

Given the obvious effort to distance his company from the traditional Yellow Pages label, we asked Swanson where traditional Yellow Pages fits into DexOne’s long term plans. He says print YP remains the predominant source of leads for most top categories, but each year, that becomes slightly less so.

“If all a company does is sell Yellow Pages, it will be difficult to grow over the next 10 to 15 years,” Swanson said. “The product is in slow secular decline. But that doesn’t mean our business has to be in slow secular decline.” Still, while conceding a secular decline, Swanson says he believes print will be relevant for at least another 20 years.

As for the cyclical element, Swanson see only modest improvement in 2010 over 2009.

“The local business economy is not recovering at the rate that financial services and some other segments are recovering,” he says. “And as goes the local business economy, so goes our business.”

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