Thursday, March 31, 2005

Finding amazing details about people


Wow! ZoomInfo has gathered reams of data about individuals and makes it easy to find out information on just about anyone.

Go there and type in your own name or the names of anyone you want to know about.

Verizon Plans To Jack 411 Directory Assistance Fee Four Times

Y'know, Internet Yellow Pages keep getting more attractive to users. Verizon is doing its part to chase users to the net by quadrupling the price of directory assistance..

Yahoo! News - Verizon Plans To Hike 411 Directory Assistance Fee: "Verizon Plans To Hike 411 Directory Assistance Fee

Wed Mar 30, 5:31 PM ET

With Verizon Communications owing MCI an acquisition fee of about $7.6 billion, Verizon, as the largest telecommunications company in the U.S., can draw on several different sources of revenue to help pay for MCI.

On Friday, Verizon is scheduled to hike its 411 directory assistance fee to $1.25 per request ' an increase of nearly four times over its existing 411 charge. Revenue flowing into Verizon's coffers from the 411 service will eventually surge because of its tens of millions of subscribers.

Earlier this year, Verizon unloaded its Canadian yellow pages directory operation for $1.5 billion as the company followed its strategy of disposing of businesses it didn't deem strategic for its growth. The purchaser, Bain Capital, turned around a few months later and sold the Canadian directory operation to a Canadian company for $2.1 billion.

As for the 411 service, a North Carolina company ' 411Saver ' is making Verizon's Massachusetts customers a one-time offer: 411Saver is offering free calls to the state's residents on Friday.

A spokesman for 411Saver took advantage of the situation to tease Verizon. 'We don't use voice recognition software where you have to repeat yourself 15 times, and we don't ship calls overseas where you have to repeat yourself 20 times,' the spokesman told the Boston Globe. 'With 411Saver, you'll always talk to a real person right here in the USA.'

Verizon has said that it has been losing money on its 411 service and the price hasn't been raised in nearly 15 years, company officials said."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

YP Talk - Recap of the YPA convention

YP Talk - The voice of the Yellow Pages industry.

No fat ladies singing yet. Ken Clark has a great write up of the YPA convention and the premature obituary of the YP orint business.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Local Search: Convert and Win

"My ROI on local search advertising is literally 10 times better than my Yellow Pages ad."

This article by the founder of an internet search marketing firm discusses his father's success using local search marketing vs. traditional Yellow Pages advertising.

His father's firm provides the following services:

Indoor Air Quality
Mold and Mildew
Site Assessments
Soil and Groundwater
Waste Water Discharge
Surface Water
Storage Tank Removals

He's experiencing a much higher call volume and conversion using local internet search marketing as opposed to his print Yellow Pages ad.

To be sure, the local marketing is changing, and he is enjoying a particularly high ROI partially because the cost for his keywords is low. As competition in the market heats up, he may find that his cost for customer acquisition online rivals or even exceeds his print advertising.

It's important to recognize that no one advertising source will make a business successful. It's also important to recognize that many Yellow Pages rates have become astronomically high compared to the value delivered.

My final thought . . .

This man asked his son's search engine marketing firm to handle online marketing for him. Is it possible that the Yellow Pages publisher could have offered this same service and gained the firm's online advertising business as well?

Smaller Independent Yellow Pages Publishers Expect Double-Digit Revenue Growth in 2005

theEXTRA - Association of Directory Publishers News Source: "Smaller Independent Yellow Pages Publishers Expect Double-Digit Revenue Growth in 2005
Posted: Monday, March 21 2005
According to preliminary results from a new research study commissioned by the Association of Directory Publishers' Yellow Pages Data Center, smaller independent directory publishers expect to increase revenues a total of 17.9% in 2005, after growing revenues 20.9% in 2004."

It's important to note that even publishers with a handful of directories are gaining ground in a big way.

I attribute this to the following . . .

  • Telephone directories deliver valuable leads and ROI for advertisers. If that were not the case, nothing else would matter.

  • Advertising is sold, not bought. All of these independents rely on their own ability to sit before a businessman, explain the value proposition and deliver the directory. The small independents are effectively squeezed out of national advertising revenues from the major franchises and brands. This is real local revenue.

  • The business model works of a flat monthly (on annual) fee for a particular amount of ad space in a particular directory. There is no bid-model necessary to manage.

  • Independents do not always have a price advantage against the utility publisher. The successful publishers sell on their own merits rather than a low-cost alternative.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Complaint about the contest . . .

I received the following email about the ad design contest.

Ty Hutchinson wrote:

$99 for an ad? yeah right. what a f***ing insult.

Here's how I responded.

Deat Ty,

Thanks for your honest feedback.

I think you might be missing the bigger opportunity. Personally, I could care less about the ad. This contest is about challenging status quo in YP ad design.

However, the folks who submit their work will have it displayed and featured before 10,000 of the top YP industry executives, CMRs and advertisers in the YP industry.

In the larger scheme of things, there probably isn't a better opportunity for a designer to show off than this silly contest.

Ad designers typically charge $2,000 for a full page ad. I have no idea how many clients a good designer may pick up from being selected by the best minds in the industry. Regardless, there is perhaps no better showcase.

Thanks for speaking up.

Dick Larkin

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Google adds new tool amid local search war | CNET

Google adds new tool amid local search war | CNET

Google is making it easier for businesses to add additional information to their profile. Yahoo! has been doing this for a while, and it's a reasonable way to build the database.

However, it still relies on the advertiser to take action. At the end of the day, nearly all advertising done by small business people is sold to them. The media take care of the operation, and most small businesses buy advertising without a thorough plan or expectation.

All in all, this is a good move for Google, and undoubtedly, they will increasingly gather more and more information.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

FindYP challenging the Elite System

Background: The Yellow Pages Association has long maintained a closed order entry system that controls how advertising agencies (called CMRs) place ads for national advertisers such as U-Haul, Roto-Rooter and Service Master.

It has helped the industry with uniformity, but it's been lacking in the competitive edge that spurs innovation.

A new company FindYP is challenging the YPA monopoly.

Following is a note I received from Philip Wojcik, President of FindYP.

Effective April 1st, Find YP will be including CO-OP information in the eRates and Data system free of charge to the CMRs that are subscribed to use the powerful tool we have created. We have a strategic agreement going in place, to license use of one of the largest CO-OP information sources available to the advertising industry.

Currently eRates and Data has over 1000 directories live and more being added daily.

We are also working on a Zip Code radius search that will allow a CMR to enter a zip code, select a radius, and return a list of all directories within that search.

Rock on, Philip! Competition makes us all better.

Friday, March 11, 2005

John Battelle's Searchblog: Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, and Channel Conflict

John Battelle's Searchblog: Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, and Channel Conflict

Here's a very interesting discourse with good followup posts regarding John Battelle's view of the Yellow Pages and Yahoo YP and Yahoo Local.

He touches on very salient points, and in particular the likelihood that Yahoo would eventually have its own salesforce to replace the job currently being done by SBC, BellSouth and Verizon in Canada.

If anyone has ever doubted the lack of strategic planning in the major telco publishers, simply look at how effectively these three players have increased the value of Yahoo's YP/Local directory business while hastening their own demise.

Yahoo's asset base has been built on the backs of the telcos, and at the end of the day, Yahoo will be the big winner.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Study: IYPs at a Competitive Disadvantage in Local Search

ClickZ Internet Advertising News

Here's an interesting article about a recent Forrester report showing IYPs at a disadvantage to local search provided by the search engines.

In a nutshell, the problem is that IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) sites put out by publishers don't get anywhere near the traffic geenrated by the search engines.

On the other hand, the search engines don't have the YP publishers' capability of gathering relevant information on local businesses and selling them advertising.

So it comes down to this . . .

Should a YP publisher who has always made his money by selling into his own publications start acting like a local advertising agency and sell advertising that appears on multiple properties?

It's a bigger problem than you think because the YP publishers are valued on the predictable cash flow that is generated by the directories. Moving to a business model that has far worse margins, a much higher advertiser churn and a questionable asset base may not make great strategic sense.

On the other hand, there is no way that, or will ever generate traffic comparable to Yahoo or Google.

Ultimately, we'll see something in the middle, because advertising does not sell itself. There is simply no replacement for the huge army of sales reps calling on local businesses.

Also, no Internet property has proven that they can build a financially sustainable model employing a large diverse sales force selling only online advertising.

Ultimately, the advertiser wants qualified leads, and the publisher is in the best position to deliver those leads.

So what do you think?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Click Clarity - Getting What You Pay For

InfoCommerce: Click Clarity - Getting What You Pay For

Here's an outstanding piece from InfoCommerce on coming changes in search engine marketing.

Click fraud is real, it's big, and it's cancer.

But the new techniques on the horizon are making the future look rosy again.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Social Networking and the Yellow Pages

Printable Version

Imagine if you could combine a trusted friend's referral with the comprehensiveness of a Yellow Pages directory. That'd be pretty cool, huh?

Well, it's called "social networking", and several companies are attempting to accomplish it. They take different approaches, but they all put the emphasis on building strong referral bases.


I compared and, two leading companies that have very different approaches to social networking.

Mark Pincus, CEO, founder of was a very compelling keynote speaker at the Kelsey Group's Interactive Local Media conference last November. He was particularly engaging, and he had denizens of YP folk clamoring for his time throughout the end of the conference.

Mark's discussion centered around the importance of connecting with people who have similar interests and value systems in creating an effective social network. Mark told me that has over 10,000 reviews in San Francisco alone, which is a very good start.

Craig's List Model uses a structure that is remarkably similar to, the granddaddy of free classified sites. The major difference is that includes sections of user reviews and ratings whereas Craigslist is more of a traditional classified ad site. also views their "social network" as content that may be syndicated to other web properties. This opens the network to a much larger audience than simply the web site.

Birds of a Feather Tribe Together asks users to complete a personal profile and join or establish "tribes" of friends. The tribes become the center of "trusted" recommendations. By knowing the person making the recommendation, you have a better context in which to judge it's relevance. Each tribe has a common theme. I joined a tribe of fellow Notre Dame alumni, and I started a tribe for others interested in Toastmasters.

I've been playing around with the site, and here are a few things I've noticed.

Coolness Factor

After using for a few weeks, I came away feeling decidedly "uncool". To be fair, I'm not very cool to start with. You could describe me as kind of a skinny, white, Republican version of James Brown.

So with those disclaimers, I wasn't able to find very many things that interested me.

Tattooed Tax Man

This being tax season and all, I searched for an accountant in San Francisco, and produced 18 results. Nine of the eighteen had perfect ratings of five stars each reported by one person.

Accounting Advice from Mystress

The other nine accountants didn't have any stars, but included comments such as "One of my best friends is an accountant" which was posted by a woman of indeterminate age with multiple piercings calling herself Mystress. Since I don't personally know Mystress, I checked out her profile, and it included several photos of her sticking her tongue out and an interesting series of her wearing a pair of red leather chaps and twirling flaming batons.

Would you ask this woman to refer an accountant?

My Secret Life as an Accountant

In a former life, I was a real life accountant in San Francisco. Contrary to the happening, artsy accounting scene portrayed by, my clients were mostly constipated Japanese businessmen. I never had any clients remotely resembling Mystress. The only body piercing I recall encountering was once when Mr. Kimoto was sitting at his desk picking at his earwax using a straightened paperclip. His telephone rang, and he forgot to remove the paperclip before answering. That incident kept me laughing behind his back for weeks.

Like I said, I'm not in's target audience. Their night club and body piercing reviews are probably highly credible. I searched for nipple piercing, and found 7 businesses reviewed. I'm not currently in the market for this service, but if the need arises, it's good to know I can find referrals.

No Fuzzy Search Results

Another issue I have with is that a search only works for exact matches of text instead of using a taxonomy system to interpret your search. As a result, I received entirely different results by searching for accountants (plural) and for accountant (singular).

Bottom line, I like's concept, but I don't care for the implementation.

A product of Idealab (the company who brought us Overture and CitySearch), is structured as a traditional Internet Yellow Pages with socially networked personal recommendations included as the primary enhanced content.

Yellow Pages Model

Where models itself after Craigslist and only provides information on businesses that is entered by users, InsiderPages is modeled after or InsiderPages uses the InfoUSA database of all business listings so it has content even where it doesn't have reviews.

As the publisher of, a traditional IYP, I will admit that I am much more comfortable with this type of directory. I'm biased, get over it.

I searched for accountants in Los Angeles, CA, where InsiderPages has built local content.

The search results were very satisfying. The data shows more than 500 accountants listed, and it organized the results based on the strength of my relationship with the person posting reviews.

For Best Results, Add Lotsa Friends

Since I don't have any friends in Los Angeles using InsiderPages (ok, I have no friends at all), I added Stu McFarlane and Andrew Shotland, executives at InsiderPages to my friends list.

The first three accountants listed had been reviewed by Stu or Andrew. Below these were 13 more accountants who were reviewed by friends of either Stu or Andrew. These were identified as FOF (Friends of Friends).

Below these 16 accountants were 23 more accountants who had been reviewed by someone who was not directly connected to my friends or me.

Spill Your Guts for a Cup of Starbucks

InsiderPages gets reviews the old fashioned way. They bribe people. Reviewers receive $5 Starbucks cards for every 5 reviews they write. InsiderPages' policy doesn't allow businesses to review themselves, but rather than focusing on policing, their objective is to have so many reviews on each business than one or two biased reviews would not be able to sway the overall rating.

Each review includes the reviewer's comments as well as the number of stars.

Reviews of H&R Block

I found that many of the reviewers used their first and last names or name and initial. It seems more credible than the underworld monikers found on I could also click on a reviewer and see how we are connected by showing the all connections between us.

Local Saturation Takes Time

The difficulty for InsiderPages will be in managing growth and expanding into new markets. A directory filled with recommendations needs to develop critical mass quickly and efficiently to maintain momentum and growth.

As far as a business model is concerned, it seems that InsiderPages is first trying to build usage, and then trying to sell positioning or other types of lead generation on a cost-per-lead basis. This can work if they keep their costs in check as they grow. Grow too fast, and they'll flame out. Too slow, and their business model won't develop.

There are many other companies incorporating user reviews and ratings into their IYP engines. Yahoo is probably the largest. There are a few independent IYPs that are including user ratings, but I'm not aware of any major telco YP publishers who have taken the plunge.

Good News . . . Bad News

Ultimately, the publisher of the IYP has to strike a balance between good user content and maintaining a relationship with the advertisers. Honest reviews are critical to have a valuable directory. I believe that in a few years, user reviews and ratings will be almost as necessary as maps and driving directions.

We'll probably see some companies syndicating their user reviews to web directories wanting to add social networking to their content. and are among those exploring the syndication model.

I love the concept of honest reviews. I just don't want to be in the office the day a $100,000 print Yellow Pages advertiser cancels his ads because of unflattering comments posted by dissatisfied customers.

- Dick Larkin

To paraphrase David Galvan of Yahoo Get Local, we're only 10 minutes into this business. We're a long way from determining who will be the dominant social networking company.

What do you think?

© 2005 Dick Larkin. All rights reserved.