Take revenge on print Yellow Pages!

January 30, 2009

Article by: BLOX Digital

By Marc Wilson

When I ran my weekly newspaper I always hated to see the print Yellow Pages sales team show up in “my town.” They swept in signed up nearly every business to 12-month contracts – and sucked up everyone’s advertising budgets. “Gotta do Yellow Pages ” my fellow business owners would say by way of apology for cutting down their newspaper buys.

Now the shoe can be on the other foot.

Yellow Pages in print are dying and there’s $15 billion a year in advertising up for grabs. Newspapers – as the No. 1 most-visited local Internet site – can become “headquarters” for online Yellow Pages.

But it’s not easy.

When TownNews.com bought ZWire! and AdQuest a couple of years ago the sale included a Yellow Pages directory product. The product includes a national database of business that can be parsed in many ways – such as by area or product. Some newspapers created restaurant guides wedding directories etc. while others ran a full-fledged Yellow Pages product.

The main problem was driving traffic to the online Yellow Pages listings. Some papers have been successful but many have not.

Introduce the “mash-up.”

Mash-up is an Internet term that means combining different products to create a new product. We at TownNews.com have spent the last six months or so creating a mash-up that includes Yellow Pages site search Internet search engine advertising search engine optimization (SEO) video advertising maps and directions and online and print display advertising.

We think we have a winner – a product that will help our customers earn a big piece of that $15 billion in Yellow Pages advertising.

Our SWAT creative service and DotConnect Media teams have worked together to bring the best of breed into a mash-up that will help newspapers retain existing advertisers – plus attract non-traditional advertisers.

Here are the basics:

1. SEO is enhanced by an advertiser having his/her Web address posted on the newspaper’s site in this case as an Enhanced Listing on the paper’s Yellow Pages product.

2. A minimal amount of Search Engine Advertising (SEA) is tied to Enhanced YP Listing guaranteeing pay-for-performance results for the advertisers.

3. Local site search is used by pulling information from the Enhanced YP Listings into Top Ads modules that are posted throughout the newspapers Web site on a space available basis. Classified pages should work well.

4. Video ads can be created for as little as $100 and linked to the Enhanced Listing and the SEA. Thumbnails of the videos can appear in the Top Ads modules.

5. Online display advertising can be used to drive traffic to the Enhanced Listing and video ads.

6. The newspaper publishes – once a week or more – a print directory promoting the online Yellow Pages with special emphasis on the customers who purchased Enhanced Listings.

We think this is a formula that can attract substantial new business. We’ve created all the back-end tools to make this happen and our SWAT team is fully prepared – including carrying video cameras – to help newspapers launch the program.

We hope this will result in the old-fashion Yellow Page book sales teams saying “Curses the local newspaper grabbed all the advertising dollars!”

(Marc Wilson is the general manager at TownNews.com. He may be reached at marcus@townnews.com.)