Friday, October 29, 2004

Peter Zollman: Yellow pages cook up a recipe for disaster at newspapers

Peter Zollman: Yellow pages cook up a recipe for disaster at newspapers: ""

Peter Zollman has written a very interesting article showing how the online model spells trouble for the traditional newspapers.

Clearly, the ability to aggregate large quantities of locally relevant data is a huge boon to the local media and yellow pages companies.

Sensis has taken the lead in aggressively becoming the one major website in Australia. It helps that they effectively own the Yellow pages industry unchallenged down under. However, unwilling to rest on their position of dominance, they've set the stage where they are the key provider of local commerce and protected their domain.

It's highly unlikely that a US based telco would take such a grand move, but you never know. It wouldn't really take THAT much investment to have a business with massive upside potential.

Hearst had retained their ownership of Associated Publishing, a small publisher of Yellow Pages in west Texas. Associated runs a nice tight ship, but Hearst had kept them on a short leash.

A new CEO at Hearst, and the sleeping giant awakes. Most industry insiders I know were surprised when Hearst purchased White Directories. White is the third or fourth largest independent in the US operating under the brand "The Talking PhoneBoook". Like Associate, White is a top quality organization and Hearst is retaining management.

Over the coming year, several more YP companies will be in play because the market is hotter than it has ever been. The scare of losing the business to the internet is at bay, and investors can appreciate the huge and predictable cash flows.

Should Hearst wish to become a major player, they will have no problems finding companies of value. Their biggest issue will be outbidding the other companies who want a piece of the action.

InfoCommerce: BellSouth: Selling Up or Selling Out?

InfoCommerce: BellSouth: Selling Up or Selling Out?

InfoCommerce is a very thoughtful view at the IYP market.

Bell South and Google have signed an agreement where BS will be selling Google's AdWords.

For BS to pull this off, they need to really simplify the sales process. If you've ever bought key words on Google or Overture, you see that it can be a very daunting task.

I'm skeptical that they'll get this to work.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Florida Bar Cracking Down on Lawyer Ads - Article

This article about the Florida Bar cracking down on lawyer ads has me a little concerned.

Beyond misleading or fraudulent ads, they have gone after a law firm for using a pit bull theme as playing on people's emotions. Since when is the emotional aspect of advertising illegal?

I see the state bar doing double talk on this issue.

To be sure, the lawyer ads are probably tasteless. But does that make them illegal?

Senator Rod Smith, D-Gainesville says, "Somehow, images of Webster, Darrow, Marshall and Cox disappear when I am told of a television ad that suggests good legal counsel can be obtained by simply dialing 1-800-PIT-BULL."

It seems to me that at least some of these lawyers were masters of courtroom dramatics and theatrics. They probably didn't have the Johnny Cochran rhyming machine, but they knew how to manipulate juries.

The day that they outlaw courtroom drama and emotion is the day that they should outlaw advertising.

Friday, October 22, 2004

ADP Commentary on Verizon v. Yellow Book

I received the following memo from Larry Angove, President of the Association of Directory Publishers regarding Verizon v. Yellow Book.

As usual, Larry is very articulate and open minded in his assessment.


Date: October 20, 2004

To: All ADP Members

From: Larry Angove

Re: Verizon v. Yellow Book


By now, most, if not all, of you are aware that a decision was entered earlier this month in Verizon’s lawsuit against Yellow Book USA.

The Court found that Yellow Book had been overzealous in some of its advertising claims but that Verizon had proven no damages in the preceding and was unlikely to be able to prove any harm in a scheduled December trial for damages, which was cancelled by the presiding Judge as part of his judgment.

Both publishers quickly distributed press releases offering their points of views on the judgment, as did the New York Law Journal, which termed the outcome “no harm, no foul”. In Verizon’s release, Lester Chu, VIS’ Vice President – Strategic Planning and Marketing, boasted that “We (Verizon) pride ourselves on integrity and ethics.” It is Verizon’s own contradiction of this high-road claim, as evidenced by its actions since the decision, which prompts me to offer this commentary.

Many, including myself, suspected from the beginning that this lawsuit was more about competition than advertising legalities. Now Verizon, in my view, clearly is confirming those suspicions. Apparently without regard for the yellow pages industry as a whole, Verizon has instead chosen to air, for competitive purposes, this bit of dirty laundry in the public through full page ads in major newspapers in areas where it competes with Yellow Book. The newspaper ads contain cherry-picked, self-serving snippets from the Court’s decision that, based on my multiple readings of the 15-page opinion, can only be characterized as malicious, mean-spirited spin inconsistent with the facts and plain language of the judgment.

But perhaps Verizon’s actions aren’t really that difficult to understand. When you spend tens of millions of dollars to end up with only the right to send out releases and place ads, what else can they do?

Attached please find a copy of Yellow Book’s October 20 full page in the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, October 15, 2004

MediaPost - Obit for the Yellow Pages

MediaPost Advertising & Media Directory

Here's an interesting article proclaiming that serch is writing the obituary for the Yellow Pages.

Maybe yes, maybe no. The article brushes past the concept that Yellow Pages has loads of advertising because they have loads of salespeople who sell the stuff.

Search will continue to make headway, but it will not be until they establish their own field sales force that they knock the YP companies out of business.

Last I checked, Google boys were more interested in buzzing around on Segeway scooters instead of managing the down and dirty business of local sales.

You don't need a Stanford MBA to sell local advertising. In fact, I think you're much better off without one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Verizon considered #1 MegaBrand by AdAge

AD AGE MEGABRANDS REPORT: FIRST-HALF 2004: "CHICAGO ( -- Powered by its wireless unit, the Verizon megabrand drew $730.8 million in first-half 2004 measured advertising to lead all U.S. brand spending during the period.

Verizon has led every half-year analysis of the Top 200 Megabrands' spending by Advertising Age since replacing AT&T the end of 2002.

There's no question that Verizon is one of the heaviest advertisers in the world. Does this give Verizon a sustainable competitive advantage? Not necessarily.

It does show that they continue to be serious about being "The Brand" in their core business units. As a competitor to Verizon in many markets, I find that the brand strength is less important than the quality of customer service and perceived value.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Verizon SuperPages Wins Case Vs. Yellow Book

Verizon SuperPages Wins Case Vs. Yellow Book

I have to agree with Verizon that the Yellow Book ads were misleading by saying that more people used their book than the "Other Book".

The ads were good for increasing the exposure of the industry, and they did one hell of a job branding Yellow Book. Everytime I wore my TransWestern shirt in public, someone would say that they saw our "yellow book" ads on television.

I believe that Yellow Book would have been wiser to invest the money they spent on TV advertising (it had to be several million) on making better directories. For example, they could have given away quarter page ads to every restaurant in the country, and consumers would use their books because of their usefulness.

I just don't believe that TV advertising is a winning strategy unless your product is considered superior by consumers.

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Bristol/Somerset | Judges creased over ironing firm

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Bristol/Somerset | Judges creased over ironing firm

In the UK, the Yellow pages ran a competition for the best company name. A company that provides ironing services (what the heck?) calls itself "Crease Lightening".

The Brits think that this is hilarious. (yawn).

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


[This article came from Matt Michel of the Service Roundtable, a marketing specialist firm that brilliantly focuses on the HVAC industry.  He makes a strong push for community centered marketing, which includes community telephone directories.]
One of the blessings and curses of an in-home service company vis-à-vis 
a fixed retail location is the ability to go to the customer instead of 
waiting for the customer to come to you.  It’s a blessing because it 
offers a degree of flexibility the retailers envy.  It’s a curse because 
without discipline, the flexibility leads to an unfocused, inefficient 
service and marketing effort.
Retail operations like McDonald’s and Starbucks seem to be opening on 
every corner.  They’re ubiquitous because they understand the 
opportunity that exists in a relatively small geographical area.  Even big boxes, 
like Home Depot locate 10 to 15 miles apart.  If a Home Depot can 
survive on a five to eight radius, why do you travel more than 30 miles 
between calls?
Gotta Make Those Yellow Pages Pay
Here’s the problem.  Take out a big ad in a yellow pages directory 
serving a 2500 square mile territories and you feel obligated to take every 
call that comes your way no matter where it originates from because 
you’re spending a small fortune on the ad.  Stop!
Does 30 Miles Between Calls Make Sense?
Windshield time, the time spent driving between calls, is the bane of 
service efficiency.  There’s no profit in it.  It’s lost time.  
Windshield time represents fully burdened costs without revenue.  In metro 
areas especially, it makes little sense to drive 30 miles between calls.  
In metro areas a 30 mile travel distance can easily translate into a 90 
minute travel time if the traffic is heavy.  For example, a couple of 
weeks ago I spent 2-1/2 hours to cover 20 miles in our nation’s capitol.  
There are marathon runners who can cover this distance faster on foot.  
A couple of days ago, I drove 35 miles to a meeting paced the entire 
way by an air conditioning service truck.  When I finally exited, the 
Sprinter van kept going.  Unless the tech was taking a trip in the company 
truck, it’s hard to see how this is profitable.
Not Just Distance, But Travel Time
Travel time matters more than distance.  I live in a Dallas suburb 
that’s fairly inaccessible.  It’s bordered by lakes to the south and north.  
The roads into the town reach around the lake or pass through heavily 
congested surface streets.  While the demographics of my town are 
attractive, its inaccessibility gives it a travel time that’s double a 
comparable distance on the other side of the lake.  Nevertheless, I 
continually see trucks from companies located 30 and 40 miles away.
Define a Service Territory
My guess is that unless you operate in a rural market, within a five 
mile radius of your shop is more business than you could possibly handle.  
You fly by it rushing from call to call.  Maybe you’re in a position 
where you feel it’s necessary to accept all calls that come your way.  If 
so, set *some* limit.  Define some radius and stick to it.  
Exchange Calls
Contact competitors outside your defined service territory and work out 
an arrangement where you will refer calls to them that are outside of 
your territory, but within theirs if they will do the same.  You will 
still have overlaps where you compete, but outside of these areas, you 
aren’t competing.
A Core Territory
Next, define your core territory.  This is the territory where you want 
to focus your marketing efforts.  It might be as small as a single zip 
code.  It may be a five mile radius.  It might be a 20 minute drive 
time radius.  
Concentrate all of your discretionary marketing in your core territory.  
Even if you take calls from the next time zone, why spend money 
marketing to distant areas that cost more to serve than your surrounding 
Pound your core territory over and over and over again with outdoor, 
direct mail, door hangers, cable (and yes, you can target zip codes with 
some cable companies), and other marketing.  Keep at it until you’re 
close to a household word in the area, until the referral machine kicks 
in, until you have a measurable share of the households in the area on 
your customer list.  What’s measurable?  Try two to five percent of all 
households or four to ten percent of owner-occupied households.
Units of Common Interest 
Frankly, I recommend focusing down to individual subdivisions.  Find 
units of common interest where homeowners talk with each other.  This 
could be an area served by a single elementary school.  It could be 
subdivisions with a homeowners association.  In short, find an area where you 
can afford to become the dominant marketer for a period of time.  
Become the neighborhood specialist.
Once you’ve attained a level of recognition, you can back off slightly 
and deploy your resources to the next area.  Marketing is like pushing 
a car.  It takes a lot of effort to start it rolling and less to keep 
it moving.  Once your marketing has momentum, you can devote resources 
to the next area, so long has you don’t let the momentum stop.
Minimize Windshield Time
What every service company should strive for, but will probably never 
achieve, is a situation where your customers are so concentrated that 
you can run maintenance all day and never travel more than a block 
between calls.  Think about it.  What would happen to your applied time if 
you were able to attain this level of concentration?  Could you pay your 
techs more and still drop more to the bottom line?  Would your 
marketing costs fall as referrals pick up because more and more neighbors use 
and recommend your company?
Windshield time may be a fact of life.  There’s still no profit in it, 
so do what you can to minimize it.
© 2004 Matt Michel
Ruth King has written a book called Entrepreneurial Terror.  I haven’t 
read it yet because it hasn’t been released.  I have started listening 
to the audio CDs.  Help your blood pressure by doing more than rail at 
talk radio.  If you’re stuck behind the wheel, pop in a CD and learn 
something.  Check the audio version of Entrepreneurial Terror out at or call 800.511.6844.
Ruth’s sort of inspired me.  We’re considering offering audio CD 
versions of some of the best of Comanche Marketing.  This is especially 
suitable for me because I’ve got a face suited for audio.  Is this a good 
idea or not?  Let me know by emailing me at 
Since you’re going to do it anyway, you’ve got permission to reprint 
this and pass it along. You may copy and reprint any of the marketing 
ideas you find here on web sites, newsletters, or in magazine articles, 
provided you send the me an e-mail with the location of electronic 
publications ( or a copy of a printed 
publication (Matt Michel, Service Roundtable, P.O. Box 270842, Flower Mound, 
TX 75027-0842, USA). You must include the following citation:
Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
Free subscriptions are available at: -- click on the Comanche Marketing tab
Copyright © 2004 Matt Michel
Comanche Marketing is hosted by the Service Roundtable™. The Service 
Roundtable is an organization of contractors, by contractors, and for 
contractors. The Service Roundtable is dedicated to financial and business 
performance improvement of service contractors and provides a wealth of 
business tools and content for a very affordable monthly subscription. 
Visit the Service Roundtable at


Monday, October 04, 2004

MediaDailyNews 10-4-04 - Dex Media Pursues SME Market, Analysts Ponder Relevancy

Dex Media Pursues SME Market, Analysts Ponder Relevancy.

Dex is partnering with Interland to build websites and SME Global Solutions to manage the search engine marketing. From what I can tell, there is a huge demand building in the small business community for these services. It may take a while, but I believe these services will be successful for Dex.

SME Global has developed a system where they manage the PPC advertising for every account. This enables the publisher to sell "packages of clicks" and SME is responsible for fulfillment. They really take the load off of the publisher. The single biggest downside that I see is that the delivery is very gray. You never know exactly which search engines and which search terms will be used to market your business. As long as the advertiser is confident that the publisher isn't screwing them, everything's OK.

A few years back, we ran a test with a banner serving company and we found a significant amount of fraud. It was a small, isolated test and we were able to minimize damages by killing it quickly.

I know the owners of SME global, and am confident that they will deliver what they promise.

This message sent via The MediaPost
Advertising/Media Search Engine and Contact Directory
________________ _________________

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Settlement reached in Yellow Pages suit

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A class-action lawsuit that claimed
Southwestern Bell Advertising bilked advertisers out
of more than $20 million in late fees has been settled
for $21.7 million.

The deal was approved this week by Jackson County
Circuit Court Judge Tom Clark, who called it fair and

Two Kansas City-area companies - Liberty Cellular Inc.
and Blast Inc. - filed the initial suit in November
2001 claiming SBC violated its contract by charging a
$25 late fee to advertisers who didn't pay their bills
on time.

The plaintiffs claimed the late fees were falsely
listed as collection activity fees on customer
invoices. Clark ruled last year that the billing was
"inherently deceptive" and that customers paid
"without full knowledge of the facts."

The suit was eventually given class-action status,
representing thousands of Yellow Pages advertisers in
Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Under the settlement, class members can receive direct
cash payments or account credits.

Southwestern Bell stopped charging the collection
activity fees in December and has agreed not to pursue
collection of fees that had been charged but not

A spokesman for SBC Yellow Pages in St. Louis, Donald
Fisher, said the settlement limited what the company
could say about the end of the litigation.