Friday, August 05, 2005

Can Verizon compete as an Independent Yellow pages publisher?

Verizon issued a press release discussing their growth as an independent publisher and touting the strength of their brand.

In one sense, they are absolutely correct in the strength of their brand. Last year, they spent more promoting their brand than any other company in the US. They spent something north of $800 million on brand advertising.

So does that translate into operating a strong independent Yellow Pages publishing arm?

While I can't claim any inside information, my observations tell me that it has been much more difficult than Verizon's letting on.

Yellow Book has a list on its website showing several markets that Verizon has either abandoned or sold to a competitor. Is it a small percentage? Well, when you are one of the largest directory publishers in the world, it is a small percentage.

If you are a small business owner who has invested a major portion of your annual advertising budget in an abandoned market, it is much more meaningful.

I'm not here to throw stones at Verizon. Quite the contrary. I am a long-term shareholder.

However, as an advocate for local advertisers, it is important to be able to systematically evaluate directories before investing in any of them.

Here's the rule. . .

If a directory has great content that is easy to use, the directory will be used by consumers.

If the directory is under-developed (industry-speak for lousy ad sales), it will not be used regardless of the brand on the cover.

The next YP Commando Newsletter will deal with simple methods of selecting a directory for your advertising. Make sure you sign up.


Anonymous Andy Baker said...

First of all Mr. Larkin I met you several years ago in the Indianapolis area right after you started with TWP. I was a manager then & relocated To Bowling Green Ky & opened the office down here. I went out on my own 4 years ago. Verizon came into this market about 2 years ago. Their first book came out 12/03 & every busines that didn't advertise with them was listed in the wrong town(major blunder #1) They somehow talked a few folks into advertising in their next directory 12/04. After their reps were here slamming us, the book not only came out with the same problems, but they had forgotten to list 2 communities in the white pages all together(blunder #2). At that point most advertisers called in for a refund. There was a corporate decision to reprint the book. Since they own the printing company, it was obviously more cost effective than giving refunds. It reprinted 02/05, three months later, with more problems. We are confident that they have thrown the towel in yet another market. They are the laughing stock of the directories in the Bowling Green market. The moral of the story: It doesn't matter how big you are, if you don't put out a quality book, nobody uses it. I feel sorry for the reps that they hired & were sent in to work on the book. It was a blood bath.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Dick Larkin said...

I think the message here is that it is tough being an independent publisher regardless of who your owner is.

I commend Verizon for reprinting the directory, but it doesn't sound like that was the *real* issue.

Any successful salesperson must have confidence that his product or service will benefit everyone involved.

At the end of the day, we are in a "People Business" and must respect the bond of trust that exists with our users and advertisers.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am getting tired of your blog today... all these anti-telco statements!! look at Verizon's book closings

Ballinger-Rescoped into San Angelo book

Sonora- Also Rescoped to San is West Texas for Christ's Sake!!!!!

Canada - Sold for HUGE profit and bottom dollar.... heck look what it was purchased for.... The yellow book site takes a huge spin on things... spin towards YB! Cost per call.... how funny... what about actual number of calls and impact for a volume based business?? that is what is missing!! Keep it up... this is becomming a very biased blog Dick.

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10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way.... Canada profit aside... In the past 3 years Verizon has introduced more books than reduced. Hence why they are #2 behind yellow book as Independent and #1 telco. The fact is Verizon has enough bank to make anybook work... and Yellow Book isn't doing anything but spinning cable TV commercials to fight it. Spinning Verizon's advertising ideas as bad ones... Keep spinning Dick.. i liked it more when you worked for TWP!! But you are just investing in your future!

10:11 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Interesting observation Dick. I disagree with your opinions of Verizon's efforts. Considering the 800 Million Dollars in advertising spend from "Verizon" you are looking at the expenses of Wireless (goal of regaining title of #1 wireless carrier in subscriber base) and telco (goals with FIOS and broadband etc). Verizon Information Services or only make up probably 2-4% of the Verizon ad dollars. Branding is important and the YP product has a leg up thanks to Verizon Wireless and Telco. Verizon is #2 Independent as stated above. With Yellow Book's approach (purchasing companies top dollar) vs. Verizon's (creating a new innovative book on the street) I assure you that your stock in Verizon is going to go allot further! Keep Investing.... so will Verizon! Also if you have issues with reps.... they often don't represent the company as they should. That is an integrity issue and Verizon does not permit these sort of things. Take a look at Dex's issues with compensations and legal problems due to integrity.... Verizon's policies prevent such things.

8:57 AM  

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