Friday, July 18, 2008

The internet claims another victim...

The phone book is dead. Long live the Googles.

Well, its not quite dead yet, but its on life support. The new Qwest Dex book just came out this week in Seattle. It is a vestige of a past age, a pre-information age. Its almost silly to think of having a database of every business in a city, then printing out every single record, binding it in a huge book, and driving it around to every citizen in the area. Once a year.

The phone book is the opposite of green (yellow?!). It consumes massive amounts of resources to hire a sales force to contact every business and try to get them to advertise, then print thousands or millions of copies of a massive book, then burn tons of fuel to get it everywhere in a city. Most people just recycle them on the spot - which contributes to saving some paper but consumes plenty of resources in the process. Since the deregulation of the phone industry, the Phone Book is now 5-7 Yellow pages per market, with players like Verizon, Qwest, Yellowbook, McGregor, MyCommunityBook, and several others vying for usage and advertiser dollars.

It is asinine to think of how much a small business spends to advertise in this dinosaur of a medium- Full page ads in a decent sized city still run $10K+ PER MONTH! It has historically been a hugely profitable means of advertising for many types of businesses such as personal injury lawyers, plumbers, garage door repair people etc etc. Now advertisers have to divide their $$ across several print phone books as well as all of the local search options online.

There are several sites started by the phone book publishers to try to hedge their losses- Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com, DexKnows.com, Yellowbook.com... These sites work fine enough, but are rooted in the old print book advertising mentality, so the highest paying advertiser gets to the top, not the most relevant search result. Just try making a few searches on Yellowpages.com- see if you get what you need, where you need it. They compete with other directory sites such as CitySearch, Yelp, as well as data aggregators like www.yellowbot.com. And of course- Google. Search engines are the most convenient way to do searches for local businesses, but the search results can get muddy. For example, a search for 'Plumber Seattle' got me several plumbers, but also some heating and cooling companies like Ballard Natural Gas, and a photographer?! Then, the companies that are best at SEO (search engine optimization) or who pay the most for SEO get to the top. The highest bidders get to be on the top of the sponsorsed links. So search engines still end up getting tainted and can offer confusing results, sometimes nowhere near the area you are searching. Several companies are offering local businesses guaranteed clicks, calls, or search engine ranking for a fee- or the business owner can do that work themselves. The waters remain muddy.

Local search is the BIGGEST area of growth in online advertising in the next 5-10 years, period. The company that offers the most usable, relevant search results and delivers advertisers consistent volume of good prospects for a fair price and is easy to work with will win Billions with a capital B of local business's ad dollars.

FYI I worked for Yellowpages.com until just recently, I'm not just a local search fanatic as a hobby...

3 comments:

fcb4 said...

Yellowpages..so yesteryear.

I use google for all things: directions, maps, info, study on related subjects, pics...it's endless, fast and leads you to what you want in a few jumps if not the first one.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your posts on Eric's blog- fcb4. Thoughtful, tactful and well put. Oh, I happen to agree with you.
Fred, Eric's Dad

fcb4 said...

Don't listen to my dad...anyone who would call his son Frederick...can't be listened to.