A new report from analyst firm Borrell Associates contains fairly dire revenue projections for both local newspapers and print yellow pages ($5 billion in projected print revenue losses in five years). The newspaper angle is picked up today by the Wall Street Journal and PaidContent, which both lay out some of the numbers.
The report is called “Say Goodbye to Yellow Pages.”
Yet it’s not as severe on the directory industry as that title would suggest. The report contains numerous projections of revenues and their various sources and discusses numbers of sales reps and so on. Borrell has always contended that newspapers were dominant in the local online advertising market and had the lions share of revenues. Part of that has been based on historical newspaper accounting practices that inflate the appearance of online revenues.
This new report, however, says that newspaper dominance is slipping as online “pure plays” (e.g., search engines) and yellow pages publishers are in a better position to capture small business advertising dollars as they migrate online. It argues that yellow pages sales forces have “retooled” more efficiently than newspapers and are in a stronger position to reap the benefits as newspapers falter and see more revenue losses.
The Wall Street Journal article echoes that newspaper weakness with anecdotal comments from publishers and their sales executives.
I spoke yesterday at a yellow pages sales event about the “State of Local Search” and can say that there’s heavy emphasis being placed on selling digital media across the board.
The “local ecosystem” online is considerably more complex than the two articles above suggest. Both directory publishers and to a lesser degree newspapers have emerged as critical online segments and, even more so, as “resellers” of traffic from search engines. In that capacity they are acting as sales channels for search engines, which have decided not to build out local “feet on the street” to push online advertising to small businesses. Newspapers have also tied up with Yahoo, Zillow, and others in an effort to organize themselves into networks for more efficient ad buying at the national level.
Search engines, directory publishers, and newspapers all need each other to some degree because none of them independently have all the assets (traffic, sales, advertiser relationships, and content) to entirely succeed in the local online market.