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DMS ’11: YP Leaders Debate the State of Industry Transformation

By: 22 September 2011

What does digital transformation truly look like? And how far along the path to a new revenue model are directional publishers? Those questions were front and center at DMS ’11, as Dex One Chief Strategy Officer David Sharman, YP New Zealand CEO Scott Pomeroy and Local Search Association President Neg Norton debated “the future of Yellow Pages.”

Sharman was quick to clarify that his organization no longer views itself as a “publishing company,” instead transitioning to a broader marketing and solutions value proposition that is increasingly driven by a performance-based mobile product set. Ultimately, the core asset remains the same — not the print book, but the established brand and connected sales resources.

Pomeroy, who has aggressively accelerated digital initiatives at YP NZ since taking the reins in January, raised more radical notions of transformative change. Rather than squeezing the final revenue drops from a legacy channel and methodically marching toward digital, he volunteered that traditional media have a responsibility to at least consider running a digital-first business in which digital would be spun off as a separate entity. He reminded the audience that “the market awards value in a digitally based business that is growing.”

Naturally, that raises questions of innovation…if YPs, even with some new internal blood, are positioned culturally, operationally and financially to iterate at the speed that the digital environment requires?

Pomeroy asserted that YP NZ is not a technology company, but an “interpretive marketing services” specialist. For Sharman, it’s all about smart partnerships that fulfill client needs. Perhaps the sweet spot is thinking like a tech firm, even if it’s not a core competency.

The eternal challenge pushing back against these disruptive approaches is actual strategic implementation. As Norton summarized: “Where we’ve fallen down as a group is execution.”


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