What Could Save The Yellow Pages? 10 Ideas

November 29, 2009

What Could Save The Yellow Pages? 10 Ideas

https://i1.wp.com/nettoolkits.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/yellow-pages-dead.jpgI noticed that not many have re-Tweeted or shared this article. Great suggestions from Chris Smith, another former employee of Verizon/Idearc Media, who is highly regarded as one of the country’s top 10 masterminds in Local Search Marketing. He is a true expert. He is one of the reasons Superpages.com was ranked higher than YellowPages.com and RealPages.com for so many years.

In this article he suggests 10 things the print yellow page industry can do to evolve into a media company of the future.

I strongly agree with the sentiments on saturation distribution, unwanted phone books, and improving diversity and product offering in the internet space.

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Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund good News?

October 31, 2009

In my opinion, Idearc’s potential post Bankruptcy 45% buyout offer by John Paulson’s 20+ Billion Hedge Fund is really good News.

But I think they need to get the majority share of the company and go all in! Just 45% does not give them the stake they need to create real change in the organization. I don’t think what they are doing is close to being enough to save the Yellow Pages unless they start re-monopolizing. The industry has officially been broken apart since deregulation of the telephone companies and the birth of independent yellow pages publishers.

Recent announcement that current Idearc Employees likely are unaware of:

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Hedge fund Paulson & Co is seeking to buy nearly half of bankrupt Yellow pages publisher Idearc Inc’s (IDARQ.PK) common shares when it emerges from bankruptcy by offering creditors cash for the shares they are to receive under its proposed reorganization plan.

Under a proposal Idearc filed with U.S Bankruptcy Court in Dallas, Paulson “will not beneficially own more than 45 percent” of the new Idearc’s common stock, Idearc said in a statement on Friday.

Paulson would have the right to name one director to Idearc’s board under the proposal.

A hearing on the deal, which is subject to court approval, is scheduled for Nov. 18. A separate hearing on Idearc’s plan of reorganization is set for Dec. 9.

Idearc Inc filed for bankruptcy in March, as revenue for its printed directories business dwindled amid a shift to online search and advertising.

Idearc was spun off from Verizon (VZ.N) in 2006.

pumpkincarving

The case is in Re: Idearc Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 09-31828. (Reporting by Phil Wahba)

WOW…..

If Paulson Hedge Fund is making a hard offer for 45% of the company’s stock it might potentially possibly maybe a great move for the employees of the company. Who knows? Something new related to how the company is going to make more money other than the cloud computing-outsourcing bandwagon the CEO is on to reduce expenses (meanwhile in my opinion simply making things more challenging to service the clients, and curb the churn of its mid-level clients.)  The yellow pages have always done well with clients that are “just gonna be represented anywhere and everywhere”.  They are typically your marketplace leaders and have the largest amount of resources and current clients. These folks are just now realizing that the company is best suited handling printed yellow page ads and postcards. Calling a client twice a year to discuss his internet presence by a new sales rep will never work towards the same level of success in search marketing and other forms of more creative media. It is great that the company is just about the last sales organization in America to annoy homeowners with unwanted direct mail postcards. It has been saturating Americans for years with wasteful phone book distribution.  The beauty of the internet: Folks actually ask for the information! WOW… subscription based…. what an amazing concept.  (DALLAS BUSINESS ADVERTISING TIP: Pay very close attention to the smart phone revolution — It may soon become another 2002-2004 when local search boomed the first time.)

Things for Paulson to consider when looking to replace a member of the companies Board of Directors: Idearc has had questions asked about tactics in the past on how it reports revenue, how it reports earnings due to the nature of being a publisher and collections on delinquent advertisers, and last but not least a class action lawsuit over raising credit limits for previously non-high risk advertisers with accusations of executive fraud related to the manner in which Executives of the company were reporting issues with receivables. Just imagine if they took the time to invest in Sales Fraud, accusations related to false contracts, unethical business practices of media consultants, and last but not least the manner in which it reports losses to influence incentive trips and bonuses for managers and executives.  Crony capitalism…… we Main Street folks love it!

I think the board needs to look at how this company has started and where it is now since becoming its own company in 2006.** (remember folks, I started as  a 19-year-old “Telephone Sales Call Center Rep” out of High School back when GTE became Verizon in 2000) ** Idearc was spun off in a very suspicious way Verizon’s part in order to unload some debt. Very disturbing since it had been investing the companies profits over the years to fund other projects (wireless) and then spun it off with the debt to fund another (FIOS/TV) project. Great move Verizon. You didn’t get caught like Bernie  the investment fella or Ken from Enron. Considering two other companies, Hawaiian Telecom & FairPoint Communication, also went bankrupt after Verizon separations; you can’t help but wonder if it was planned.

Paulson’ hedge fund ought to read:

Termination without Cause . If the Executive’s employment with Idearc is terminated before January 9, 2010 by Idearc without “cause” (as defined below), then the Executive will be immediately vested in a pro rata portion of the Shares that would have become vested on the next succeeding January 9, based upon the number of days elapsed from the preceding January 9 until the date the Executive’s employment with Idearc terminates, and the Executive will forfeit any remaining unvested Shares. For the purpose of determining whether the Executive’s employment is terminated without cause, the term “cause” means (A) the Executive’s commission of a felony; (B) the Executive’s grossly incompetent performance or substantial or continuing inattention to or neglect of the duties and responsibilities assigned to the Executive; (C) the Executive’s fraud, misappropriation or embezzlement or a material breach by the Executive of the Idearc Code of Conduct; or (D) such other misconduct detrimental to the business or reputation of Idearc or to the ability of the Executive to fully perform the duties of the Executive’s employment. The determination of whether the Executive’s employment is terminated with or without “cause” will be made in the good faith discretion of the Human Resources Committee of the Idearc Inc. Board of Directors or its designee, and any such determination shall be final, conclusive and binding on all persons.

Time for my soapbox:

Crony capitalists believe that it is acceptable to attempt to manipulate the stock price of a company with false or misleading tactics. I believe in transparency from corporate employers and agents.  Main Street deserves it folks! (It is almost Nov 3rd Elections Time and I am pumped up!)

The poor company has it coming from all angles. Consumer’s hate the industry method of saturation distribution, environmental conscious folks hate the paper waste and tree pulp used when creating yellow pages directories, and businesses see costs increasing and value decreasing. Idearc’s solution to the declining revenue is creating a PPC product that far from being as effective for key advertisers as they claim it is. Idearc does not vSoapbox imagealue organic search on Google which is roughly 70% of all web search click results. Google Maps has also impacted the company’s traffic to Superpages.com’s Network. Is it time for the phone book’s to do more than copy innovations from other Local Internet Verticals like ServiceMagic.com’s Service Guaranteeco or copy ReachLocal’s offering to local SMBs. You know… the Proxy-Site based PPC platform that doesn’t offer analytics (doing PPC without analytics is technically managing what you can’t measure) to the client. Who needs to know what is going on with the website when you have a call report like the phone book. Everything they do is hack work. Sorry, but I left due to the inability of the company to service my clients and not spending my time making “Cold Calls”. It required a significant amount of my time to fix issues with fulfillment. For instance, campaign managers actually go to Google and copy the Adwords campaign messages from Google page results when building ads. They also create generic ads and do not focus on landing page optimization.

If I were investing in the company, I would ask… what does Google offer that you do not? What is Google providing campaign managers that Idearc opts out of with its proprietary system? Does Google have a better handle on PPC than companies like Inceptor which Idearc acquired in July of 2006 during the time the company became its own. (or should I say folks like me invested in it based on the credit markets at the time in relation to corporate debt.)

Maybe this potential buyout by the right party will be a good move for my friends and “family” at the company. I wish you guys luck with SuperGuarantee, SuperSEE, SuperPages, SuperTools, SuperKlein, and the SuperTeam from the antiquated yellow pages whose used to nice fat margins that don’t happen when you service your client unless you quit the “Sales Model” business model.

A word of advice for Paulson,  Don’t be sold as easy on Idearc as the cocksure David Letterman wannabe who likes his drink his Pepsi and cocktail a certain way while having some nonsensical view that advertising in the Yellow Pages is target towards intelligent homeowners.

Here is a video of Scott Klein doing “motorcycle stunts” on Dallas highways in order to pump the sales reps for the future announcement of the fact that the company could not afford the debt Verizon had given it. Scott was so kind that he spent millions to let them all stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas earlier this year for a few days introducing ServiceMagic.com’s ServiceGuarantee as the new Verizon Yellow Pages SuperGuarantee and announcing that he wants reps to have a menu pricing list instead of haggling, they want to charge clients for leads at huge rates that reps today refuse to sell, (almost like selling yellow pages ads that don’t work) and I am sure to cover a few other things.

(Maybe the next ads will be of “EveryDay folks touting of how they used the yellow pages to find something…. gotta love brainwashing folks…. sounds better than a catchy jingle or superheroes or copying companies like ServiceMagic.com)  Things still are not as peachy as the folks a the corporate ivory tower pretend them to be. When it comes down to taking care of the client the company holds very little accountability and while it knew it was having issues taking care of clients it did very little to correct the problems.  (Yellow Pages industry profit margins don’t leave much room for good old-fashion customer service) I really don’t feel that the print and online business can be more than ads based. The company will have a huge challenge adapting to the quick pace of the internet marketplace with social media and changes that the major search engines make. Idearc has very little control when Google holds all the cards (traffic). Why a business owner would sign a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management is dumbfounding.  When they fail to fulfill the promise that “sales reps” commit to with clients the company pauses your advertising campaigns and you the client get stuck receiving collections calls for a $300.00-$1000.00 per month management fee.

Why do companies feel that they can do PPC better than Google? I have seen what the proxy companies use to fulfill Google Adwords campaign orders and I have seen all aspects of the Google Adwords Campaign Management interface and I will tell you that Google has the market beat. You can combine Webmaster Tools and Analytics from Google and get a great picture of what is going on. The ability to measure and the ability to manage.

The Local Google consultant thing is going to kick the company right in the teeth. Not just me down the road, but what happens when business owners realize that $400.00 per month and no dedicated campaign manager is nuts. For that kind of money you can get SEO advice, Websites and still have money left over to fund Google Adwords.  Only a Yellow Pages publisher would create a rate card for the internet that is as boring as the antiquated Yellow Pages.  You cannot treat the internet like you treat ads in a phone book. Only a yellow page company would get into the internet business via acquisition of a search marketing firm only to end up copying its closest and best competitor. At least with ReachLocal the sales reps are paid residual and try a bit harder service the client. Too bad the sales rep is about as clueless as your average “I know what PPC is but I don’t know how to do it” SALES REP.  Not really the place to get advice on internet marketing is it folks?

Meanwhile, Paulson… if you want to know how to fix the issues in the company, ask the clients.   Good luck with the investment. Time for real change at Idearc! Time for real innovation. Time for folks to stop copying the rest of the industry and be more creative!

If you want to be at the top of Google, the last person you need to speak with is the Yellow Pages! The last thing you need is a 12 month contract for Pay Per Click management.

Pay for the campaign build, pay for the knowledge and help if you need assistance Doing-It-Yourself, pay for options specific to your business needs…….

Oh yeah, and DO NOT ALLOW the Yellow Pages companies to build your small business website. You might just end up with something like this:

http://allactionftworthcarpetcleaning.com (it amazes me that some of the best companies have the worst website, Thanks Yellow Pages!)

When for less money you can have:

http://yourfortworthattorney.com ( template site using open source Joomla Content Management System)

10 Steps to Help Your Dallas Area Business Survive & Thrive During the Economic Recession

Mike Stewart the Dallas Google Guru is here to help!


Will Idearc/Verizon Yellow Pages and RHD Consider Accepting Directory Distribution Opt Out Lists

October 20, 2009

Revealing Update on Dex’s Phone Directory Dumping « by John Harvey Irwin – Will Idearc & RHD consider accepting alternative opt out lists from verified providers? ( http://ping.fm/cMQdn )


What do Idearc, FairPoint, and Hawaiian Telecom all have in common?

October 9, 2009

Here is an article that I have been biting my knuckles trying to keep quiet about.
WSJ Comments On Idearc Bankruptcy & Verizon Culpability : Natural Search Blog

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I read this article via a former employee of Idearc, one the Search Engine Marketing Industries most respected SEO consultants and who many believe to the the foremost experts on Local Search Marketing in the World, Chris Smith. Chris was formerly head of Idearc’s Search Engine Marketing team on the fella that helped put Superpages.com on the first page of Google. Chris did a tremendous job in the early day’s of local search beating other Internet Yellow Page Sites, such as YellowPages.com and Local.com (competing with keyword rich domains in the space is a challenge)

So the question is…. what do Idearc Media, FairPoint, and Hawaiian Telecom all have in common? They are all companies that Verizon spun off to fund Wireless and Fiber/TV/FIOS initiatives. Chris states, “Verizon might have some responsibility for the bankruptcies of Idearc, Hawaiian Telecom and FairPoint Communications”.

He also states:

In the case of Idearc, the business unit was too small to cause the great corporate mother ship to founder, and it’s the Verizon spin-off debt load it was saddled with that caused it to be unable to function in the first place. He misses the point that Verizon took too much money out of the spinoff deals. Those weren’t existing debts associated with those business units prior to their divestment.

These companies wouldn’t have “gone under” within Verizon. It’s possible that if a business unit starts to lose money for a quarter or two, the board would naturally require it to correct itself in some way.

I completely agree. I also think that the folks that worked for Ivan at Idearc at the time were over eager to accept whatever deal they could in order to be relieved of the burden of being under the Verizon direction. I don’t think it was smart of Kathy Harless and her team to take on such a debt burden…… seriously, over $9,000,000,000.00 for a company that has been losing its business to Google and Yellowbook and other competitors since 2001? It must have felt very confident on new product ideas such as Solutions at Home, Solutions Direct Mail, and Solutions on the Move! Nonetheless, the company would have never been able to create these new ideas and products under Verizon. Verizon used the Yellow Pages division as a cash cow to fund other ventures, then did it again when it unloaded debt on the smaller divisions.

I have a site that I am going to build: http://www.YellowCrooks.com, as I recently purchased the domain thanks to the idea from a former co-worker. He gave me the idea while being forced to watch an hour long rediculous “cocksure” video about sales, sales, and more sales. In my opinion sales was not the issue. The product offer and fulfillment was the major problem. (I have the credentials to state this since I was regarded as the most knowledgeable internet media consultant in the company {hey a FIGJAM moment for myself} and also have 3 President’s Awards for “Sales” in my 6.5 years in the division.) With the site I want folks to discuss what Verizon did. With all the transparency about Countrywide Mortgage and other recent events…. .why not?

Chris continues to state:

But, arguably these companies experienced a much higher degree of financial problems due to the extremely high debt they were required to service subsequent to spinoff. These spinoffs funded Verizon’s FiOS expansion — a gigantic project that was paid for by Verizon offloading the investment costs to the companies it spunoff.

It will be interesting to see if the Securities and Exchange Commission gives Verizon a pass on their spinoffs of bankrupt companies as Newmark seems to think reasonable, or if they don’t respond in some way to consumer and state government complaints.

In my opinion his comments are exactly why Idearc will have issues completing the bankruptcy. If I recall the company is going to come out with approx. 3 billion in debt when it emerges in Dec09/Jan10.

According to WebWire Press Release:

Idearc filed for voluntary chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to renegotiate its debt. Although Idearc was not technically bankrupt with over $500 million cash in the bank and net cash flow of $300 million per year, the weak economy spurred creditors into lowering the outstanding debt from $9 billion down to $3 billion along with more flexible payment terms. One of the terms is that Idearc give anything over $150 million in their bank account to creditors in order to pay down the $3 billion in debt. Essentially, Idearc will always have $150 million in the bank and anything over that will be taken out to pay down debt. Idearc’s 3 billion dollar debt has a note rate of 12%, the annual debt service is $360 million dollars, about 12.1% of 2008 gross annual revenue. The creditors/lenders have already approved the reduction in debt. The company is now waiting for approval from its board and the bankruptcy judge. According to the new deal, Idearc must give the creditors $250 million from its cash reserves as a sign of good faith. This will put Idearc’s cash position at approximately $250 million after the deal is completed

I hope the folks at the Downtown Courthouse in Dallas are taking all this into account! I know the counsel for the unsecured creditors is sure going to put pressure on fiduciary responsibility of Verizon. But in my opinion (or should I say prediction is) Verizon will probably buy Idearc back in some Bernie Madoff type crony deal and leave shareholders with pocket lint. Why? Because this is America! Heck, Verizon offered a separations package to folks that left the company and put it in writing that folks would not be hired back, yet these folks were later rehired after taking the Voluntary Separation Package with very nice severance packages. Do I blame the cocksure guy from Pepsi? Nope! Not for the burden. But it kinda makes me think of folks saying that Obama is not to blame for Bush’s choices. Well….. that might not be a good example…. or might just be?? Obama’s choice to put my kids in debt with the “Spendulus Plan” and Bail Outs might compare to turning “America’s local ad agencies” into a telemarketing service or abandon the internet business in favor of trying to keep the print alive. Honestly I have heard rumors (like I said!!! RUMOR!!!) about Idearc not wanting to stick with the .com product it offers since all it can muster is riding the coattails of Google and Yahoo in search. Margins in print make it easy to have 3000 “sales” reps. The smaller margins in .com might move the company towards that of a Media Buying Ad Agency and the company might follow in Google’s self automated pricing structure. Why should prices of ads be so darn “negotiable”?

I’d go a bit further and also agree with Chris and state “that if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, it’s a rat”.

In the meantime….. y’all wish me luck….. I am hoping to start a company doing what I do best……

HELPING DALLAS AREA BUSINESS OWNERS REACH THE TOP OF GOOGLE AND MAKE MONEY!

Oh, yeah…. I think I am going to offer to create PPC campaigns for FREE and not charge a management fee or have you sign a contract…. Might be the wave of the future. Call me for details. FREE Google PPC Campaigns are subject to me providing my SEO services. Although technically I am not in business… maybe I can show folks how profitable SEO can be!