Look here John, sorry to tell you this, but they lied to you.

November 18, 2010

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“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to lie and deceive…”

Just got back from the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Marketing Association http://www.DFWSEM.org meeting. You won’t believe it but the attendance was over 150 people tonight! The topic was the State of Search, featuring a gentleman from a Search Engine News Website and with two wonderful young ladies from Google and Bing. Very exciting stuff for search geeks like myself.

So… however that quote goes, has it never been more true  than in the advertising sales business.

You ever go out and tell a client what they are really getting from the service you provide? If you do it with an absolute clear conscience, you know, kinda like the feeling of helping someone down on his or her luck, wouldn’t you think you and the company you keep should be rewarded with this clients future business? Companies that can do this well have a great product or service to offer. Companies, like those that report phone book usage is down from 25% to now 11%, but then claim that they want to “opt themselves” out of paying a State mandated (so to speak) “tax” that requires them to produce a product that consumers don’t want or use, yet they then want to sue for the “freedom of speech” to saturate homes with unwanted industry waste… is that not pot meet kettle or what? The business practices of what was once an honest profession are disturbing. It is not all publishers. The problem is really all publishers combined. Take for instance my zip code, if you visit the Yellow Pages Opt Out site you will see that my home receives 4 different yellow pages company products, which equates to 6 books a year worth of collective waste. I wonder how much useful wood chips are being wasted? It is not like they are keeping legal citizens on payroll distributing the waste anymore? Have we officially handed phone book distribution responsibilities to illegal immigrants? I guess if the garbage man who doesn’t speak a lick of English can remove the phonebook trash for free, at no cost to the publishers, I am sure it won’t hurt for his Wife to keep busy littering our porches with them? Probably not the intent of the design behind the recycle symbol circle on your phonebook, but it sorts takes on a whole new meaning huh?

John Paulson is a smart man for booting SuperMedia CEO Scott Klein, and his two EVPs out of the company. Time to make room for DexOne management. DexOne folks didn’t subscribe to the Verizon/Idearc way of cheating. With the bankruptcy of Idearc, FairPoint Communications, and Hawaiian Telecom, Verizon should be held liable for unloading massive amounts of debt free and clear after two years outside of the nest, especially considering the knowledge of mobile smart phone advancements and patents. Considering the timing of the bankruptcy, one has to question the integrity of the investors and executives, whom did an excellent job of raising executive salaries while demanding subordinates take massive paycuts and benefit reductions. I guess we should ask Congress to do the same too? It is not like the 545 folks that run our federal government ever get fired for doing a crummy job?

What does this have to do with Google?

Product advancements in search come from ideas. Problem solvers combined with engineers and designers who create amazing solutions and verticals for just about any consumer need. The best that the Worlds first and once most respected “internet technology” companies, the yellow pages industry veterans, could create was an online version of the printed product. Nothing more, nothing less. That was because they, like most other intelligent businesses, understand how to carve a niche. Too bad ethics and technology passed them up. Companies like the one I used to work for are inundated with mid-level sales managers, high quotas, fat profit margins, nepotism, excessive executive compensation, and a lack of focus on change. Just because you are relevant today, doesn’t mean you will be relevant tomorrow.  The YP industry lacked the foresight to see the near future. Even paid search was a rush it to market solution with an inferior product like SMLocal that didn’t incorporate the tools from Google’s UI and AdWords Editor desktop applications. What we got was a cheap investment of the BidCenter tool from the purchase of Inceptor vs true software as a service (SAAS) solutions or platform planned and engineered application, such as those from companies like ReachLocal.com. To build a massive search marketing company you must find a way to embrace a holistic methodology to search and social, stay transparent with cpc/cpa and offer measurement tools and reporting such as Google Analytics.

The next step is to incorporate content strategy, and then after dotting i’s and crossing all the t’s you get to sales. Not sales and then a wonderful and almost preplanned game of hot potato by the outsourced and overworked/understaffed fulfillment department. Beuller? ANYONE want to take some accountability for the clients problems? Your CEO must be on the same page as your head engineer and his team of programmers. This is the side of corporate that deserves investment. Clearly not what Verizon chose to invest in with its Yellow Pages division Verizon Information Services.

Do you know why two terrible companies, or expired business models combined, just make one really bad company or idea?

John Paulson’s Hedge Fund was lied to by yellow pages executives. Now Mr. Paulson’s fund managers are making plans to turn yellow lemons into lemonade by combining the administrative and management expenses of SuperMedia and DexOne. I guess that is what most people hope, just because some monopolizing of the printed yellowbook business would be a good thing for porches everywhere. So the plan is to cut costs, merge resources and expenses, kill white pages, and then sell whatever is left back to investors or bondholders, but not at 40 bucks a share and the thirty some odd dollars per share they shorted the way down…. does this ring a bell folks? Gotta love crony hedge funds as much as crony capitalists right? I guess you deserved to be lied to… that is what you get for backroom deals to rob shareholders on bankruptcies of a dying business model before the companies had the opportunity for fresh and creative leadership to take a shot. Too bad when Verizon Yellow Pages and Idearc Media was spun off of big Verizon that big Verizon didn’t get to keep the crony leadership team from Kathy Heartless…. errr I mean Harless.

Maybe they need to just stop pretending they are so Super and actually do what is needed to become it… invest in something… anything. Just RIF the entire Verizon Management Team and start fresh… or do what Local.com did and buy a company like Octane360 for a basic SEO offering? Heck, you can’t do worse than BidCenter/SMLocal and Business.com. (lol)


My Rant……..The Next Bubble.

February 16, 2010

After reading a new article regarding the internet SEM investments and recent venture capital funding to WebVisible (another $20M), Reach Local (original $55M back in Oct 2007), and Yodle (recently funded with another $38M) I wanted to comment about The Next Bubble. Let’s discuss the what where and why investors are hot for SEM, Search, and what I see is still  groundbreaking opportunity in local search marketing consulting, as Greg Sterling’s blog pointed out here in his blog titled Screenwerk.

The thing about this topic is that it is both political, thoughtful, and very personal to me.

If you look at the success of Google (information from Wiki:) over the “somewhat” recent years-

Google Inc. (NASDAQGOOG, FWB: GGQ1) is a multinational public cloud computing and Internet search technologies corporation that hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, generating profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while the two were attending Stanford University as Ph.D. candidates. It was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998, with its initial public offering to follow on August 19, 2004. Its headquarters, located in Mountain View, California, is often referred to as the Googleplex, which is derived from the number googolplex. The company’s stated mission from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, and the company’s unofficial slogan, coined by Google engineer Paul Buchheit, was Don’t be evil. It runs over one million servers in data centers around the world, processing over one billion search requests every day and about one petabyte of user-generated data each hour. Even the company’s name, Google, was a play on the large number googol to represent the large amount of information the company set out to organize.

From this house:

Google Started Here

to multi-million dollar complex in Mountain View California:

https://i1.wp.com/www.propertyinvesting.net/cgi-script/csNews/image_upload/default_2edb.googleplex.jpg

GooglePlex

Google is set to become the largest company in America.

Google Stock History

Google stock compared to GE and Exxon

Read the rest of this entry »


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…….