Sensis Plans Harder Push into New Products

The Australian directories company Sensis has released its full 2010 financial year results (ending June 30) and the results show the company is resilient, though print revenues are clearly coming under increasing pressure. The company generated A$2.1 billion in revenue for the year. On an adjusted basis, revenues declined by 2.9 percent.

Sensis’ print revenues were down 5.1 percent, reflecting both White and Yellow Pages.  White was basically flat, while Yellow Pages was down more substantially. Metro print revenues are mostly reflected in the first half, while the smaller markets, which perform much better, are mostly recorded in the second half. In general, metro print declines are in the high single digits, while regional book declines are in the low single digits, with some smaller books still growing revenue.

Currently, digital accounts 20 percent of total domestic revenues for Sensis, a ratio that will expand considerably over the next few years. Sensis is investing considerable energy in launching new digital products, particularly as it has completed installation of a new Amdocs publishing system (it has published 101 titles on the new system to date) that enables the company to launch new products from existing content, and with different pricing methods and terms. The new system took three years to install and replaces an older print focused system that gave Sensis little flexibility.

We spoke last night with Sensis CEO Bruce Akhurst and COO Gerry Sutton about the results and new developments at Sensis.

“We are transitioning from the past to the future and we are very bullish about this business,” Akhurst said. He was eager to point out that, while Sensis is seeing  revenue declines, it is gaining intermedia share as the Australian print media market declined by 13.1 percent (8 percent overall) in calendar 2009.

Akhurst wouldn’t go into much detail about new digital products on the horizon. He did say there will be several and they will accelerate the company’s shift to digital. Sensis already has online White and Yellow, a CitySearch local guide, mobile Yellow Pages, an ad supported DA product (Sensis 1234), and a mapping product called WhereIs. The company also has an online ad network called MediaSmart.

When we asked if the company planned to move into a leads-based or pay per call sales model, Sutton replied that Sensis will remain an inclusion based company in the near term, but it is moving aggressively to position itself for leads-based sales, or at least subscription sales backed by detailed reporting. The company currently has about 8,000 customers with about 24,000 metered lines. Sensis expects to increase that into the hundreds of thousands over the next year.

The company says print usage is fairly stable at 25 million uses per week, with about 20 million online references. The biggest growth area is mobile, which has seen an 80 percent usage increase over the past year.

Sensis is no longer touting print as a source of growth. It doesn’t project a reversal of the current trend. The company is rolling out some new innovations in print (mini directories, companions, bundles and so on) aimed at maintaining usage and display volume. However, the publisher’s main message now is on how it is investing and innovating in multiproduct. The company is confident that its large and well training sales force provides an edge against digital competitors. We’ll be anxious to see what new digital offerings Sensis rolls out in the coming months.

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