GoogleVs. The Yellow Pages — What is the Future of Yellow Page Publishing?

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Google Vs. The Yellow Pages — What is the Future of Yellow Page Publishing?

by Adam Strange
Advertising Consultant of

After decades of cornering business owners with a virtual monopoly on local advertising, the local Yellow Pages directories are being forced to compete, head on, with new players in the constantly changing landscape of local business advertising.

I have been telling my clients since the birth of the internet that this medium would be a game-changer for the Yellow Page Advertising industry, and it appears that notion is soon to pass.

Where Yellow Page publishers have dominated the advertising field, is in the concept of directional marketing—an advertising and marketing medium aimed at capturing customers in the act of researching a planned, often necessary, purchase.

For over a century Yellow Pages publishers have dominated this field. But with the rise of the internet—a near perfect vehicle for directional advertising—it has been unclear if the hundred year Yellow Pages model can acclimate itself to the ever changing advertising world.

While many Yellow Page publishers are pushing a variety of internet products, it seems clear few of these (if any) come close to competing with the multitude of self-serve products Google already provides. I keep waiting for Google to start buying up Yellow Page publishers to capitalize on their fleet of embattled sales reps, but perhaps the truth of the matter is, the future of advertising is completely self-serve.

While Google is busy planning the future of directional advertising, Yellow Page publishers are tinkering with their branding. In an amusing Yellow Pages press release I came across on market watch last month, Yellow Pages Group enjoys highlighting all of their impressive new “branding.” I guess if your competing against a company like Google—a company that so obviously spent less than 5 minutes developing their logo—branding is the place to start.

Wait a minute? Branding? Is this a joke?

As millions of companies reevaluate their lifelong relationship with Yellow Page advertising, it appears to me branding would be the least of their concerns. While branding can make or break a good product, branding is quite incapable of saving a product that is overpriced or just plain ineffective.

As Yellow Page advertisers know, there are three aspects to any successful business. Make a better product. Make that product cheaper. And find new customers. While branding can be of paramount importance in finding new customers, it’s not going to save a lukewarm product.

At this point, only time will tell.

Can Yellow Page publishers successfully compete in a market they have effectively dominated for decades? Right now they still have a respectable amount of resources and a loyal, though shrinking, following of directory users. While Google has provided ever-improving search products to younger audiences, Google has yet to clone the Yellow Page directory experience, die-hard directory users have happily endorsed.

Will Google’s next free, self-serve product be the death nail in the Yellow Pages coffin? Or will the Yellow Pages transform their directory model to one that works in the internet age? Lets just say, with branding revamps evidently high on the agenda, I’m a little less than optimistic the Yellow Page publishers can make an effective, and badly needed, change.

To type or turn? What is the Future of Directional Marketing?

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