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Newsletter Archive - Special Edition

Summary of YPA - Yellow Pages Association Conference

05/11/2006 - The following is a summary of the key events from the recent YPA Convention which took place in Orlando, FL, April 23-25.

Our Major Take Aways

The biggest discussion in sessions and the hallways was focused in several areas.

Internet & Print Can Co-Exist: Compared to recent years you could detect a change from "who will win the turf war over serving local advertisers" to "what partnerships publishers need to co-market print and Internet products." For those of you still overly concerned that Google is going to take over the Yellow Pages business and go direct to local advertisers, the Google representative on the Local Search Panel noted that Google views its local search offering as an "extension of its core mission. We don't have a 'go it alone' strategy; partnering with others in the industry is a critical component to our strategy."

Biggest Buzz Factor Goes to: The highest buzz factor at the conference revolved around Yellowpages.com and specifically when (not if) RHD would buy into Yellowpages.com (currently 100% owned by AT&T assuming the BellSouth merger closes). This move would certain solve many of RHD's online strategy concerns voiced at a recent industry analysis event. They currently have multiple brand URL's to deal with such as Dexonline.com and bestredyp.com.

It's All About Sales. Yellow Pages Group CEO Mark Tellier's presentation provided some solid evidence that YPG's focus on premise sales and sales productivity has helped jump YPG's organic revenue growth rate to 7.1% in 4Q05, its best growth in several years. Other publishers in attendance were taking plenty of notes during Tellier's presentation especially when he noted that YPG has increased the percentage of premise sales to over 80% of the sales force from 60% level the company had been at. He also reiterated that YPG has not seen any impact on print usage from online growth.

Syndicated research. Opinions are all over the place on this hot industry topic. CMRs are now under pressure to consider any directory that has at least 20%+ usage. Independent directories are rooting for more syndicated research as they have nothing to lose from the research results and have more share than perhaps first thought in many markets. The publishing of these results are now starting to draw more attention from the financial/Wall Street types. And no solution has been forthcoming for a wider distribution of the results beyond the paying CMRs and publishers.

We have broken up our summaries of the conference events into two major groups - Industry related speakers & events, and Non-industry speakers:



Non-Industry speakers:

Whenever you bring in speakers external to the industry, you always run the risk that the speaker feels overly compelled to do sometime witty and unusual to capture the audience's attention. Bob Garfield, editor at large for Advertising Age, didn't disappoint the crowd. In a presentation that often sounded more like a R-rated George Carlin Vegas act, Bob used a cute PowerPoint slide show smothered in audio, video, and irrelevant political humor to try to get his key points home. They were: "We're All Media Companies Now" - John Battelle

John Battelle, Chair/Publisher - Federated Media and author of, "The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture" provided a more traditional presentation where he emphasized these key points about the Web based on his experiences and industry observations: To an audience question about a search engine buying a print Yellow Pages company, Battelle responded that "I'm not sure how they would know how to manage it" as it is a very different business that the one they are in.

Unleashing The Magic of Local Search" Panel - Dana Todd, moderator

This was an interesting panel, moderated by Dana Todd, president of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), and consisted of Paul Levine, general manager of Yahoo! Local; Shailesh Rao, director - local search/3rd party partnerships for Google; Robyn Rose, VP Internet marketing - Verizon SuperPages.com and Charles Stubbs, President/CEO - YELLOWPAGES.COM.

Among the highlights: Rose commented that the "local search industry - including Internet Yellow Pages and search engines - is fragmented and is really still in its infancy. Players really need to focus on core competencies and figure out what they do well and where they fit in."



Industry Speakers:

Board & YPA Staff

The conference was kicked off with the announcement that Kathy. Harless, president - Verizon Information Services, has been elected chairwoman of the 2006 board of directors. Harless has served as chairwoman in 2002 and succeeds outgoing chairman Dennis Payne, president/CEO - AT&T Yellow Pages.

In Harless's opening comments she noted that "the print and online Yellow Pages industry, with $26 billion in global revenue continues to be a major force in the advertising world. Our medium is universally recognized, widely used, extremely effective, easily measurable and, even given increasing competition and marketplace pressure, extremely profitable."

Neg Norton the President of YPA outlined the key industry initiatives for 2006 which we will cover separately in an upcoming YP Talk article.

Another key note speaker was Steven T. Smith Vice President of Marketing Communication, Enterprise Rent-A-Car who provided the "National Advertiser Viewpoint". Of note in Smith's presentation were comments such as these: Simba Information:

In the breakout sessions, David Goddard, an industry researcher from Simba Information, provided an overview of the industry noting that: Deutsche Bank

Paul Ginnochio of Deutsche Bank provided a very good industry analysis at the International reception. He strongly believes that Yellow Page publisher stocks remain undervalued given their high margins (48%),


strong customer relationships, and the relatively slow decline of references (overall references have declined just 3.3% since 1999).


For more information, contact Paul at (212) 250-8463 or paul.ginocchio@db.com.

All For One, And One For All?

And finally to recap some of more significant hallway chatter, it's been no big secret that discussions are underway between The Yellow Pages Association, the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP), and the Association of Directory Marketers (ADM) about merging these multiple industry associations into one. It was confirmed in hallway discussions and publicly mentioned by YPA Board Members Kathy Harless of Verizon and Kathy Hipple of Ambassador Pages.

Word is that each of the three associations has named representatives to see if such an arrangement can be worked out probably with the help of some kind of mediator. The main issue seems to be how voting will be weighted. Small publishers and CMRs are unlikely to support something in which the few largest publishers in the industry have a controlling number of votes.

See our interview with Neg Norton this week for information (click here). This will be a tricky merger. Stay tuned.