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Sep 19 2005
PE Group Buys Yellow Brick Road
Also this week, a group of private equity buyers acquired Yellow Brick Road, the European directory holding company, from its existing PE owners, paying them 1.8 billion euros, more than four times the cash investment of current owners Veronis Suhler and 3i Group. The buyers are led by the Australian investment fund Macquarie Capital Alliance Group. The healthy returns keep coming for those investing in old-line Yellow Pages companies. YBR includes the companies Fonecta, Telefoongids Media and Mediatel, acquired over a two-year period by 3i and Veronis. The companies were rolled up into Yellow Brick Road last year.

TKG will provide more coverage of this deal and the Yell acquisition of TransWestern Publishing in an upcoming Advisory and in this week's Local Media Journal.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 11 2005
Google and Yell Group
I saw this item on, which reports that Google may be pursuing an acquisition of Yell Group, the UK-based company that operates Yell in the UK and Yellow Book in the US.

We do not yet know whether this is substantive or pure speculation that has taken on a life of its own. We hope to find out soon enough. What adds some weight to the rumor is Google's existing relationship with Yell in the UK.

What we do know is that a deal like this makes sense, at least on paper. Google has a powerful online brand, vast organic traffic and the ability to rapidly deploy new technologies. Yell Group, solves the "last mile" problem for search engines moving into local. Yellow Book is uniquely attractive because of its wide geographic coverage, and Yell is ubiquitous in the UK.

So theoretically, this makes sense. Whether it will happen remains to be seen.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  13:19 | permalink | comments [4] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 2 2005
RHD Sees the Light on Cover Ads
We noted with interest on RHD's latest earnings call that it has removed cover ads from its SBC-branded directories in Illinois, the logic being that cover ads make it harder for the publisher to distinguish its brand from its competitors. We think this is a smart decision, and one others should take heed of.

Too many books have taken on an indistinguishable appearance as they cave into the temptation of premium revenue and fail to protect their identity as a directory brand. The cover is where publishers advertise themselves. There is plenty of space elsewhere in the book for customers to promote their wares. Usage is king, and cover ads are not beneficial to usage. Hats off to RHD for making this decision, which may product a short-term revenue hit, but will pay off over the long haul.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  00:51 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 1 2005
Yellow Pages Scams Alive and Well
About a decade ago, I wrote a lengthy article for Link magazine (anyone remember Link magazine?) about the efforts of the U.S. Postal Service and others to crack down on bogus Yellow Pages scams, which exploit the inattention of busy small-business people to sell them advertising in worthless directories and then aggressively collect the debts. These schemes appear to be alive and well.

I came across an article in a Long Beach, California, newspaper that details a classic bogus YP scam by Yellow Pages Inc. of Anaheim, California. The company sends SMEs a check for US$3, the endorsement of which is a contract to purchase advertising with a price tag of US$180.00. Anyone who doesn't pay immediately is contacted by an aggressive bill collector, according to the newspaper article.

These schemes are brilliant in their simplicity and in their exploitation of the generic nature of the Yellow Pages brand. It also shines a light on this industry's inability to build strong individual brand identities, which one would think would make these scams less effective.

We do not wish Yellow Pages Inc. well. It is hard, however, not to marvel at how enduring and successful this scam has been, despite a lot of bad publicity, aggressive law enforcement efforts and the efforts of industry organizations and individual publishers to raise public awareness.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  23:56 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 1 2005
YPC Goes with SBC Agency
AdWeek reports this week that has selected SBC's longtime advertising agency GSD&M to handle the advertising account for, the company jointly owned by SBC and BellSouth. The magazine estimates the size of the account at US$4 million. This news comes on the heels of the redesign of the site, which serves as something of a preview of what the upcoming combined SBC, BellSouth and YPC online directory will look like. That launch is expected later this year.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:08 | permalink | comments [2] | trackbacks [0]

Sep 1 2005
BellSouth Announces It Has Hit 20M Monthly Searches
BellSouth put out a press release today quoting BAPCO CEO Ike Harris announcing that the company's IYP site has reached 20 million monthly searches. The press release also claims that search traffic has grown by 18 percent from 2004 to 2005.

You can read the full press release here.

The announcement seems to be part of a wave of activity by and its owners, BellSouth and SBC, as they move toward the launch of the new site, expected later this year. There seems to be a sense of urgency to establish YPC and its owners' online bona fides. As noted in an earlier post, YPC has launched an updated site, and has given SBC's ad agency, GSD&M, the account for an estimated US$4 million ad campaign to help put YPC on the map.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  10:07 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

Aug 25 2005
Verizon to Buy MCI for US$6.6 Billion
In case you haven��t noticed, another round of consolidation in the U.S. telecom space is well underway. In one sense, it means less this time around to the directory business than it did the last. When SBC buys AT&T, or when Verizon buys MCI, there are no directory organizations to bolt together �� one party has a publishing business and the other doesn��t.

In another sense, the impact could be more profound that in the last wave back in the late 1990s. As SBC absorbs its acquisition of AT&T, and as Verizon does the same with MCI, the two companies may look to ��non-core�� assets as sources of cash. We believe SBC has resisted this temptation because it loves the cash flow of directories and hasn��t had a good reason to let go of the business. Until now, perhaps.

Verizon has certainly enjoyed the cash its directories unit provides, but the recent pattern of sell-offs in Europe and Canada suggests that corporate leaders are comfortable with disposing of directory assets if it makes sense for the business.

Add it all up, and the evidence is building of a possible fresh round of directories sell-offs, or more likely partial sell-offs.
Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  08:18 | permalink | comments [3] | trackbacks [0]

Aug 9 2005
Choice Comments from YPA Las Vegas
It was a full day here in Las Vegas �� the land of free drinks that can cost you every penny you have, and where the hotels invest very little in clocks and windows.

The YPA annual meeting was packed with industry luminaries answering (or trying to avoid answering) the basic questions that drive the future of this business �� where will growth come from, what will happen with spin-offs and consolidations, will publishers be the real winners in digital directories, and where is the true innovation in this industry coming from?

Here are some of my favorite comments from the day, with some effort to put them into context.

SEMPO President Barbara Coll, at the end of a tour through ��her world�� of Bay Area digeratti, asked a rhetorical question that cuts to the chase of all the questions being asked about when we will reach the tipping point where digital dominates usage and revenue, and print becomes a secondary product.

��How many years before there are computers in the kitchen?�� More to the point, how long before we all have computers in our kitchens that will initiate a local search by voice command while we are chopping onions?

On the financial guru panel, Morgan Stanley��s Adam Shepherd said that based on the numbers, the odds of another large U.S. telco selling its directory unit are about ��50/50.�� However, the fact that SBC and probably Verizon will be busy absorbing major mergers makes that eventuality much less likely, at least in the near term.

On an international publisher panel, Lyle Wolf (known as the father of the modern Chinese Yellow Pages industry even though he��s from New Jersey) calls China the ��last frontier�� of the global Yellow Pages industry, noting that directory revenues in China are growing at 50 percent to 100 percent per year.

On the same panel, R.H. Donnelley CEO Dave Swanson made it clear he understands what drives this business when he said, ��Growth in product usage is the number one metric that we focus on.��

From the Presidents�� Panel:

Dex Media CEO George Burnett was the only incumbent publisher to answer the question, ��What independent publisher presents the biggest challenge in both print and online over the next 18 months?��

Burnett��s answer was that ��There is no doubt that Yellow Book is our biggest and toughest competitor.�� He also said that independents in general are vulnerable on the digital front, because they have underinvested and lack the footprint in most cases to have much of an impact online.

Verizon President Kathy Harless, whose company engaged in a bitter lawsuit with Yellow Book, was nudged by her co-panelists to answer the following question, ��Are the independent publishers competing fairly?��

Her answer: ��Most independents do. The record stands for those who don��t.��

Many of the written questions appear to have been sent up to the podium by frustrated CMRs. One on directory extensions elicited a consistent response from the incumbent in publishers, which was that extensions have been driven by accounting issues lately, that the worst is over, but publishers will commit only to minimize but not eliminate the practice.

The lone independent on the panel, Gerry DiPippo, drew applause when he said that advertisers deserved to have books publish on the timetable that they are led to expect, every 12 months.

Blog: Global Yellow Pages Blog
posted by  Charles Laughlin at  09:36 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]

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