DMS ’10: Opportunity Exists in Major Markets, but It's 'Time to Get Real'

For the many arguments discounting metro markets as non-fertile ground for directory publishers — too big, too diverse, too tech-savvy — Paul Plant (founder, Radicle Consulting and a former Yell sales and product development executive) and Isabelle Lascombe (marketing director, PagesJaunes) offered strong counterpoints at DMS ’10, defending metros as unique business and consumer opportunities that must be tapped through new modes of thinking and operation. Or, as Plant framed it, “ignore them at your peril.”

What does this mean for the directory publisher that has seen distribution numbers, and demand for print books, swoon in big cities? Businesses still need customer leads (perhaps more than ever), and consumers still want local information, but as Plant noted, the ways that each achieve these ends in major metros have changed dramatically. So too have the conduits that connect them. This shift necessitates a two-part publisher transformation: change the value proposition, then use technology and branding to leverage it across channels.

The new metro value prop must encompass simple Web site navigation, tight localized scoping, bundled propositions across platforms and partnerships that create holistic solutions. Most of all, content is still king … build and nurture it.

Piggybacking the more targeted, holistic approach, the value prop must then be leveraged to establish the publisher as a “trusted media adviser.” The upshot, according to Plant, is that the days of Yellow Pages’ essence originating from its proprietary Yellow products are over, replaced by a fragmented media landscape that requires value transparency through leads generation in order to succeed.

Lascombe’s French-based PagesJaunes has already changed its pitch to the tech-savvy, younger affluent consumers who reside in cities like Paris, separating urban and rural offerings for better optimization. In Paris, 54 percent of PJ’s customers are online-only users, as opposed to 15 percent in rural locales where the print product is still the driver.

Among PJ’s urban strategies are bulk print delivery to buildings, followed by sweeping and retrieval, to economize quantity and lessen waste. The publisher launched an opt-in/opt-out Web site for print directories in 2008, geared to customer choice, that has since seen relative opt-in rise and opt-out fall. In 2011 two specialty print products (home services and emergency guides) will debut in Paris with limited distribution and thinner margins.

Of course, wired tech hubs such as Paris beg for enhanced digital initiatives. Last May, PJ hatched a Web site that allows users to access all directories digitized in one central place. It is optimized for the mobile and iPhone applications. Next up: UrbanDive, a Web site mash-up with 3-D city views, shopping applications, advertiser content, social networking and user-generated content.

As Plant would say, it’s a site that uses innovative technologies and new media channels to ”get real” about capitalizing on the business-and-consumer-facing opportunities in major metros.

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