The Yellow Pages Association is now the Local Search Association. The industry group unveiled the widely anticipated identity change today at its annual conference in Las Vegas. The logic behind this dramatic move is the association’s members are repositioning themselves more broadly, and less explicitly as directory publishers, and their trade group therefore should reflect these changes.
The association also announced several new members that reflect the change — including CityGrid Media, Kudzu, MerchEngine, Telnic Ltd, No Problem, vSplash, DeCarta and others. Missing from the list were the bigger fish — Microsoft, Google, Facebook.
Local Search Association President Neg Norton expects to land some of these big fish soon. He said Microsoft is close to coming on board and the association has also had conversations with Google.
The push to change the name has been rumored for some time. According to Norton, the name change had the unanimous support of the board.
“No one on the board thought we should keep doing what we are doing,” he said.
The critical question is whether the name change is only cosmetic, or if it represents a real shift in the association’s mission.
To answer this, Norton cited a number of shifts in focus that demonstrate the change is real. First, he cited the association’s most recent usage research from Burke that Norton said “is a local search study.” He noted that the Burke study shows that search is the most used local medium as evidence that the research is not “Yellow Pages centric.”
The newly repositioned trade group will be different from other media trade groups in its emphasis on local, as opposed to a single medium, which is more common. Think DMA, ANA, RAB and so on.
He also says the association will shift its public policy focus more to issues important to Internet companies.
“As our membership has evolved, I see us taking up issues that we may not have done in the past when we were more Yellow Pages focused,” Norton said. He added quickly that this doesn’t mean the association will shift its focus away from defeating or overturning opt-in and opt-out legislation in San Francisco, Seattle or wherever else it crops up.
Norton also said the LSA will develop a local search directory, a resource for finding companies in the space, and may offer a job board as an resource for the industry.
Norton said the LSA staff will remain roughly the same size, but individual roles may change as the association’s emphasis changes. For example, fewer people may be devoted to Elite system (which places print advertising orders) and more may be shifted to public policy or other areas.
Norton said at least in the near term, the bulk of the association’s funding will still come from the largest North American directory publishers. He also said there will be no immediate changes to the composition of the board. He did say new membership categories are being established for search engines and digital advertising agencies.
The big “if” in all this is whether the name change will be seen as credible by the broader local online advertising community. Key to establishing this credibility will be changing more than the name, but demonstrate a truly ecumenical approach to all the players in the local search ecosystem. Many of these players have viewed Yellow Pages publishers as at best “frenemies” — potential partners certainly but also the keepers of a large share of the local SMB wallet.
While we think the rebranding is necessary and wise, it’s also clear the group’s biggest challenge is proving the organization has changed as well as the name.