Why the Internet and Google Kills The Yellow Pages

May 15, 2011

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On the most recent SuperMedia Verizon Yellow Pages earnings call the company’s CEO Peter McDonald, the 3rd CEO in 4 years for Idearc/SuperMedia, was asked a question:

“Okay. And then last question. I was wondering if you could comment on —

Google recently changed their algorithm for searches, if that’s affected small business? And if you’ve seen any impact from that?

SuperMedia CEO Peter McDonald replied:

“I really don’t –I don’t keep up with Google changing their algorithm. I think they do it every day.”

He also probably doesn’t consider Google or Bing Local competitors. This is a sad reality. You see, back when folks like Chris Silver Smith and his team of SEO experts ran SuperPages.com, the site was the #1 local search destination and was the site that Google used most for citations or references to local listings. The site had tremendous authority. Client content in the form of business profiles ranked high on Google for terms like “painting service Denver” and other category/geography keyword combinations.

The yellow pages are facing continued decline of use, which is attributed to a shift in local search from printed books to cell phones etc. People once needed the book to order a pizza, now they turn to a mobile application or simple search for “pizza” on Google for local results.

Peter is an old school print YP dinosaur who doesn’t get it. He probably thinks that half of Americans prefer the printed yellow pages local search product over the internet local search. This is only true in small rural areas. Peter is a yellow pages preacher. He preaches his faith regardless whether science and academia state otherwise. Peter will hire lobbyist to prevent municipalities from creating opt-out programs that circumvent his industry’s attempt to collect consumer data with opt-outs. When homeowners associations begin to put restrictions on yellow pages delivery it will be too late..

SuperMedia just announced plans to layoff 267 employees because businesses no longer need listings in the phone book to be found….. Why not? People don’t use the yellow pages or white pages to research local business information such as addresses and phone numbers. The call center they are closing once handled a bulk of the company’s business, including all the low-cost mailout renewal accounts. These accounts consisted of multi-heading and bold fonts etc. The demand for such a thing is non-existent.

Google’s algorythm change and the inability of Peter McDonald and his team to invest the time to “keep up with it” is exactly why SuperPages doesn’t get the traffic to client websites that it once did.

Another potential area of focus or failure for local search websites is the Social check-in, group buying and engagement sites. These sites are great response tools for measuring subscribers or the online social user-base. Unfortunately the yellow pages again have failed to adapt. They don’t seem to understand the word “subscription”. People don’t subscribe to the yellow pages. You must unsubscribe to get them to stop polluting your front porch or lawn with the once bulky books. If you continue to solicit your products to people that do not want them, fail to offer them a clear and easy means of opting out, your industry will fail by not respecting and appreciating consumer demand. Time to close up shop.

Check-in ratings are real. Use FourSquare or Gowalla and see how competitive it is to become a “mayor” of your local school or Starbucks. This is a great way to see the level of social engagement in your area. Something measurable vs drinking the company mantra and Kool-Aid.

Google loves a well optimized small business website. Which is better, a SMB website or Internet Yellow Pages listing? The answer is the SMB website.

I have also found that link-building from niche blog sites works well, just like topical content link-building from regional news sites and press releases.


SuperMedia CEO Scott Klein Resigns Amongst Allegations of Fraud

October 5, 2010

Scott Klein SuperMedia CEO Resigns Amongt Allegations of FraudSuperMedia CEO Scott Klein “resigns” amongst allegations of fraud.

Recently, Verizon was sued by the Idearc bankruptcy trustee.  Questionable actions have led to the resignation of SuperMedia’s CEO Scott Klein. This is not the first time an executive from the company has resigned or been fired for questionable actions and activities. If you are a SuperMedia employee, just think, it can’t get any worse and the end on Scott Klein’s reign of terror on VIS/Idearc/SuperMedia is over.

Who is now in charge?

SuperMedia appoints Peter J. McDonald as interim CEO replacing Scott Klein. Douglas Wheat is chairman of the board. Scott Klein has officially “resigned.”

Hopefully they find someone who has experience in something other than takeovers, buyouts and commodity product sales.

Scott Klein’s absence may lead SuperMedia on a path to becoming “America’s Best Small to Medium-Sized Business Advertising Agency”, yet to do this they must approach the market with a holistic, service oriented, transparent product offering and embrace a subscription opt-in distribution model. My suggestion is to reduce the scope of the directories and take a magazine approach with incentives for advertisers. Incentives, not copied gimmicks such as the SuperGuarantee will give consumers what they want. If the company can incorporate the power of group buying, special offers, and distance themselves from a 12 month product life cycle they will succeed. This has potential to be a great step in the right direction for the company. Let’s see if the micro-management culture continues?

 

So, what about this new interim CEO?

Mr. McDonald has over 35 years’ experience in the yellow pages industry, most recently as President and Chief Operating Officer of RH Donnelley Corporation (now known as Dex One Corporation) from October 2004 to September 2008. He has previously held other senior roles in the industry, including Senior Vice President and President of Donnelley Media, President and Chief Executive Officer of SBC Directory Operations (now AT&T Directory Operations), President and Chief Executive Officer of Ameritech Publishing, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dontech Publishing, and General Manager of Donnelley Information Publishing. Mr. McDonald began his career at National Telephone Directories – one of the predecessor companies that are now SuperMedia – where he became Vice President and General Manager. Mr. McDonald has served on a number of boards, including those of RH Donnelly Corporation, CMGI Inc., and the Yellow Pages Publishers Association, where he served as Vice Chairman.

It is obvious that he will soon be working on the planned merger between DexOne and SuperMedia. Cost savings and the fact that the companies business models are so closely aligned, combined with the fact that the companies do not cross compete in most markets means that it is inevitable.

*edit* rumor is as of Nov. 17th Mike Pawlowski and David Bethea, the East and West EVP’s under Klein, are out starting 11/ 30/2010. They are being replaced by Dex people which would indicate that Supermedia management is being eliminated(any surprise?) in preparation for a merger with Dex.

When a monopolies are a goodthing, two crappy companies make one really crappy company… the DexOne/SuperMedia merger is necessary to cut expenses and both companies do not cross compete.