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BIA/Kelsey’s Charles Laughlin moderated a fascinating panel this morning featuring four CEOs from the interactive local media space. Laughlin was joined by Kimberli Lewis, CEO, Mediatel (Czech Republic); Scott Pomeroy, CEO of Berry, a Local Insight Media company; Mat Stover, CEO, Local Matters; and Bruce Akhurst, CEO, Sensis.

To kick off the panel, Laughlin presented some thoughts on what the new Yellow Pages organization is all about and spurred thinking about how transformation needs to occur from the core product to a multiproduct environment. Laughlin presented these points:

What is the YP organization all about?
— No longer legacy focused
— Lean and flexible cost structure
— More technological sophistication
— Leadership that spans media and technology
— Faster moving and more risk tolerant

Laughlin also presented some data from BIA/Kelsey’s latest User View study that show consumers are increasingly using more media sources to help them make a local shopping decision. Per our latest research, 7.9 local media sources. Pomeroy picked up on this data point in his comments and noted that to fulfill on “the notion of [the YP sales force] being an advisor we have to be knowledgeable and facile with the 7.9 resources.” Pomeroy continued, “There’s a lot of money being poured into local media right now whether it be from venture capitalists or entrepreneurs. We have something that everyone covets: Access. We are the historical beneficiaries of what we’ve always done. That reality is a coveted asset.”

One key topic during the panel was the transformation of the traditional directory sales force. Akhurst noted that the sales organization needs continual training, but believes that they’re quite adaptable. He believes in the constant investment in the sales force as well as continual training.

Pomeroy too said Berry has made a significant investment in training and that the change from a product mind-set to a service mind-set gives the sales force credibility.

Lewis said Mediatel/EDSA has taken a slightly different stance in that it has started with the marketing first. “Let’s make it as easy as possible. Every one of our packages has three components: print, online and mobile. Start from the marketing and product end and then train them.”

To wrap up the discussion, Laughlin asked the panelists to name one thing that the industry has to change to ensure a sustainable future.

Here are their varied responses:

Lewis: Speed
Pomeroy: Focus on service over products
Akhurst: Fear of failure
Stover: Relationships — meaning leveraging those in the directory space’s unique position in local media

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