DMS ’10: Panelists Peer Into Their Digital YP Crystal Ball

BIA/Kelsey’s Charles Laughlin and Matt Booth moderated a panel at DMS ’10 in which Laughlin issued a series of five-year predictions for the Yellow pages industry — some bold and others seemingly more inevitable — and then solicited reaction from Eitan Ackerman (executive director of marketing, Amdocs), Sivan Metzger (GM, Kenshoo Local), Neil Salvage (EVP advertising, CityGrid Media) and Gregg Stewart (president, 15Miles) about which trends will define YP digitization by 2015.

Notable Laughlin prognostications — many hypothetical to spur dialogue — included:

“Most directory publishers will have fully transitioned into local media agencies, with non-sales functions fully outsourced.”

Ackerman: “We already see the transition toward outsourcing. With new competition, it’s better to concentrate on what you do best — selling.”

Metzger: “It’s ‘differentiate or die’ as everything becomes more competitive. Publishers that survive in a healthy way will have to hold on to what they’re unique in very closely. Sales isn’t a differentiator … only one aspect. Publishers must figure out how to differentiate.”

Booth: “Can you be successful representing others’ products in a tighter market? You lose some control of your margins. There may be pieces that they need specialty partners for [SEM, SEO], but they need to have their own unique products.”

“Printed Yellow Pages will be extinct in as many as five European markets.”

Laughlin: “Extinct is a strong word. There’s a point at which print as a point of revenue settles … it’s stable but small.

Stewart: “There’s a natural demo user base there, so print won’t go away wholesale in the next five years. But look at areas that could accelerate the decline (declining the kind and amount of content available, for example).”

Metzger: “What will be extinct is this discussion of print. Print will be just one of many channels — digital, mobile, social, print and so on.”

“More SMB advertisers will have Facebook pages than Web sites.”

Stewart: “Social presence is emerging as the nucleus of the publisher/SMB relationship. Advertisers must go to where the audience is aggregated. They must go to places like Facebook. The day of trying to drive all your traffic to your Web site is over.”

Salvage: “You have to use whatever vehicles you need to convert. The custom, multi-thousand-dollar Web sites will become increasingly irrelevant.”

Ackerman: “SMBs should leverage both Facebook and Web sites. Web sites will still give much better overall reach. Facebook should be a tool to reach a certain type of audience, which sometimes is targeted better.”

“Reputation management will be the No. 1 product sold by a local sales force in terms of volume.”

Booth: “It will be a component, but not the No. 1 product by volume or revenue. There’s a messaging piece — a ‘push messaging’ product — that’s yet to be built that represents a significant opportunity.”

Salvage: “If you really become consultant live sellers, then you give away reputation management. You layer that on top of other features in your marketing program that give clients better reach.”

Other 2015 crystal ball predictions debated on the panel were:

– “Mobile local search will surpass desktop local search in traffic and revenue.”

– “U.S. resellers will have at least three major ad networks competing for access to their local sales assets.”

– “There will be just two incumbent U.S. directory publishers.”

– “50 percent of local SMB advertising volume and 10 percent of revenue will be handled by self-service.”

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