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The Kelsey Report® Advisory

Europe's New Yellow Pages CEOs Focus on Business Basics
Charles Laughlin , 11/24/2004

SUMMARY: The Kelsey Report® spent last week in Europe, much of it at the Yellow Pages Today conference in Düsseldorf, presented by the regional directory industry consultants, Peter Buxton and Jesper Simonson. During the week, TKR heard from or visited with three new European CEOs, each of which offers a new or fresh perspective on the dynamics of our industry.

The focus of the Yellow Pages Today event was the preservation of margins, a topic that begs a discussion of all aspects of the business. European directory publishers enjoy healthy margins and in most cases little direct competition. Yet there is a growing appreciation that just because an independent publisher has not successfully taken away market share doesnt mean European publishers do not face competitive threats. Certainly there are other local and below-the-line media that compete for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) finite promotional budget. The emergence of search engines as a challenger for SME ad spend is also a reality in Europe.

Directory publishers face some stark choices in deciding how to respond to competitive threats. The search engines and those offering search engine monetization are eager for publisher partnerships in Europe, but there appears to be a strong tendency among publishers in many European markets to prefer the Sensis way. This is an emerging shorthand for choosing to build all of the strategic components of an Internet Yellow Pages/local search product brand, product, inventory, distribution and sales channels and forming partnerships only for those components they have little expertise in or incentive to develop. These are some of the challenges that the new leadership in Europe is addressing.

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