Crony Capitalism vs Main Street Capitalism, Duopolies of Economics and the future of Yellow Pages Advertising.

November 17, 2009

Our American economy, politics, and consumer spending market have all become a duopoly.

A true duopoly is a specific type of oligopoly where only two producers exist in one market. In reality, this definition is generally used where only two firms have dominant control over a market.

The most commonly cited duopoly is that between Visa and MasterCard, who between them control a large proportion of the electronic payment processing market. In 2000 they were the defendants in a US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit.[1][2] An appeal was upheld in 2004.[3]

Examples where two companies control a large proportion of a market are:

What is most common in all these examples is the fear of competition by the capitalists at the top of these companies.  Regular Americans are not afraid of competition. Competition creates better jobs, better, economics, and better political policy. Competition creates innovation. Google is essentially afraid of it’s competition from Microsoft, Yahoo, and the next greatest internet fad or brand. It is what keeps Google on it’s toes and innovating.

What has contributed to making the above companies successful is creating a duopoly. Duopolies can be very profitable for category leaders. The only thing better for a large company is a monopoly. Take a moment and think of the yellow page advertising industry. For many years the local phone company was the only game in town for local advertisers to reach out to local consumers, essentially a monopoly. In 1984 the AT&T Telephone company was broken up. This essentially created healthy competition in an industry that really did not have competition. It was good for consumers since very few options existed at the time other than printed yellow page phone books, thus creating a duopoly.

Fast forward to the Telecom Act of 1996: It opened up competition and gave consumers more choice. Over the next few years  we saw an increased amount of competition among incumbant and CLEC phone companies in the yellow page advertising industry. No longer did the “phone companies” have a duopoly on the yellow page market. GTE Yellow Pages competed with Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages in the Dallas area market. Then all of a sudden we  saw a few independent phone books pop-up (mostly due to employees of the phone companies leaving and starting yellow page publishing companies with investors who saw the huge profit margins in yellow page advertising sales) over the next few years.

So what really happened to the yellow pages? The birth of the INTERNET. Google. Yahoo. MSN. etc., but most of all……” a huge change in the manner in which consumers find information.” Consider this, the internet has only been around for “Local Search” online since about 1999-2000, that is  just about four years post telecom deregulation.  I can tell you that from 2002-2009 the industry has done very little to compete with Google. While losing business to other forms of advertising media (such as Google and direct mail growth.)

The Yellow Page Duopoly in Media is Over

I witnessed the following questionable practices by executives of major yellow page publishers in order to create new revenues:

  • Dave Bethea at Idearc

and last but not least, what I witnessed first hand:

  • Sporting and Concert Tickets to friends and family vs Clients

Competition is good for all businesses (and in politics.) Competition creates innovation. Competition always offers a better value to consumers in the long run. Competition is bad for Crony Capitalists. Competition could have been good for the yellow pages, but since the Industry apparently disregards the feelings of its end-users by inundating homeowners with yellow page waste, It will eventually become a smaller factor in Local Search. Local search online will continue to outpace printed yellow pages. This is a FACT. The problem for Yellow Pages publishers is that they are not Google. They are not Yahoo. They are not MSN. They are FAR from innovative. They don’t ask the right questions. They do not care about the opinions of those that sale to clients. I was told this first hand.

I would love to conduct a poll among yellow page advertising sales reps about the usage of yellow pages. The company never asked for the information the entire time I was an employee? Why you ask? They don’t want me or 80% of the other 6,000 employees to let them know that we do not use the phone book. This is a fact. I have discussed this very subject with folks in the office while at Idearc Media in Dallas Tx.

Now there is the possibility that I am wrong. Considering that the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has always been the #1 Market for Yellow Pages in the country, I have a feeling that I am correct on my opinions. After almost 10 years at Verizon/Idearc I have come to realize that my employers did not value my opinion or the opinion of sales. Chalk it up to crony capitalism!

Google is currently still a Monopoly in local Search

By the way, be sure to check out the national CMR agency TMP., the largest client for yellow pages companies in the country, on what is happening with phone book usage, advertising rates, and the true value of print yellow pages. You can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TMPDM. They are doing a great job of distributing “syndicated” research on the trends of Local Search Marketing. Don’t ever rely on the statistics from the industry. Don’t ever trust a “sales rep” who is not accountable for achieving your results.

So what is the real future?

Cheers,

Mike Stewart

POST SCRIPT:

Great video (very long…….) on Duopoly, Capitalism, and Politics…….