SuperPages – Let Your Fingers Do Less Walking

AT&T may say that print YP is still strong. And it may be for AT&T, although I doubt it. I live in Verizon country and I just recieved the 2011 version of my local SuperPages. Their book tells another story. It seems to be getting thinner every year. I wish I could do that.

The consumer white pages have been totally removed from the book. I am not sure many will notice. That trimmed 113 pages of paper as well as and shipping costs.

More significant (and I am sure the reason behind the white pages trimming) is that the YP ad pages dropped from 182 to 137 pages. That’s a 24.7% drop. Given that print size, book size and ad sizes all remained constant it means that display advertising is way down. On the first page of the yellow pages, Superpages themselves had a 50% bigger ad and they continued that practice throughout the book. So even the fewer number of pages do not contain as many paying ads per page. That has to sting.

One interesting addition to the cover was a QR Code to down load their app. It replaced their URL.

If they keep going at this pace, it will be reduced to thin air in no time. It reminds me of the first sci fi thriller of my childhood: The Incredible Shrinking Man. It was scary and made for some bad dreams but in the end was just a good story that very few remember. My fingers will be walking a lot less whether they want to or not.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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23 thoughts on “SuperPages – Let Your Fingers Do Less Walking”

  1. Print YPs are getting closer to the point that they will not have the right to be exist, unless they’ll reinvent themselves.

    Their on line directories (both YP.com & SuperPages.com) are way to expensive & very not profitable. i used to manage there a $120K/ year campaigns. What a waste of time, energy & money, a lot of money!

    Apparently their shrinking prints are reflecting their high-out-of-scale on line fees. That way- they’ll bury themselves.

    & justice for all!

  2. They should add some texture to the front cover of the book. Then it would make a nice mouse pad. At least then it would have some purpose for existing.

  3. @PureSheer
    Yes, its almost getting to the point where I have stopped my cheering of their decline… its like cheering on a dying man…..

    @Nanomano
    Great idea!

  4. Down here in Virginia we used to have a book called “The Talking Phone Book” that was a subsidiary of Hearst. They stopped publishing it and reinvented the whole division as “the Local Edge,” a full service SEO and SEM solution for SMBs. Out of curiosity I let them come do their pitch, it was amusing and horrible at the same time. The ignorance of the sales reps was shocking, they didn’t know who Matt Cutts was, didn’t know about known bugs in places, and so on. Sadly, their presentation was just good enough that I’m sure many SMBs are falling for it. To the tune of just $1800 a month.

    I’ve seen the Superpages and YP.com pitches too, but they were more transparent than the Local Edge one.

  5. White pages never were all that profitable, but in many states they were required to be published by the phone companies. Almost ironic that phone companies have campaigned successfully in many areas to NOT be required to publish those! Though, their usefulness has degraded sharply as many people have switched to cellphones, and cellphone numbers are not generally published in directories like landlines once were.

    It seems that printed directories will continue to be published in rural areas for some time longer, while they risk dying off in metro areas.

    Interesting that they switched out the URL for the QR code! I’d think that was a very bad idea. One of the advantages of being the official publisher for Verizon territories is the promotional value enabling them to drive consumers to their website. There are still many who have no idea what a QR code is, while most people would know what a URL is and how to use it.

  6. Very vivid picture, Mike. Well done. Incredibly vivid versus the various forms of hocus pocus marketing surveys provided by the YP’s.

    IMHO search engines are the IYP’s of the world. IYP’s are one of many directories fighting for web visibility. The old print directories are shrinking. Doesn’t look like a healthy business to me.

  7. Hey There –

    My name is Andrew Shane and I work at SuperMedia. Couple of quick points I wanted to make:

    – Our url is still very much prominent. It is part of the Superpages logo on the front cover.

    – Nationally we are seeing increases in the amount of people keeping and using the book. We are also seeing increases in the amount of calls are clients are receiving from their ads. Moving forward, we believe these facts will help our sales.

    – Our customers appear in the business white and yellow pages. Not printing residential white makes sense for us.

    We absolutely understand and recognize the migration to online and mobile search. Reality is, our clients are reaping the rewards for advertising in print (as well as on Superpages.com and our mobile app). Data shows there is value to advertising in print and our free consumer-confidence program, the SuperGuarantee, is differentiating our yellow pages and driving consumers to local businesses.

    Thanks,
    Andy

  8. The Yellow Pages here in Canada know the end is very near, and they are desperately seeking other revenue streams. Right now they are buying up the competition (Canadian Directories) as well as advertising big-time on all media about their ability to “help” businesses online with SEO. For the most part, what they really do is sell AdWords (although they don’t come out and say it) at $90.00 per keyword per month. And the strangest aspect of this “marketing” is that the click through’s go to the business’s Yellow Page listing… not the business’s website: scary and self serving to say the least.

  9. Agree with Dave, that is a vivid pic, Mike. I wonder:

    – Is this the result of Internet usage?

    – Or businesses closing due to the awful economy?

    In either case, and as much as I like to promote Local, there have been instances in my own life in the past few months when I just could not get the web to return me a complete or correct set of results for things I was trying to find. I found myself going to IYPs to see if they had better results, and in a few cases they did.

    I would have picked up a phone book for some of the searches, if we had one, because, despite the easy and quick availability of web-based Local info, its accuracy and thoroughness are still leaving much to be desired. My historic experience with the phone book was that it did a more professional, official sort of job in many cases than Google et al. have so far done.

  10. @Andy

    Appreciate you joined this discussion, well done!

    SuperGuarantee is a cool product. for my industries (locksmith &towing) it cost around the $1100 a month (i used to have 7 like those across the nation); T&C said I’m obligated for 1 year. Back then, i was desperate & bought them all. After we saw we have almost no activity from those ads (nor from your affiliates & directories who you are distributing listings to) , we tried to cancel some SuperGuarantee ads.

    you can guess how ‘smooth’ that process was.

    We had other paid ads & listings with you as well. All in all the yearly payment for SuperMedia was ~100K. No it’s ~5K.

    how are you planning to be more attractive for Local bizs owners that just seek how to spend money & be more close, relevant & exposed to their potential customers?

  11. @puresheer, I can’t speak to why you got (or didn’t) get the results you got. What I can say, is our new management team is focused on the needs of our customers. We aren’t going to sell an SMB something that isn’t going to work long-term.

    The established locksmith’s needs in VA is going to be different than a new auto mechanic in Providence.

    Working with us should be easy. If it isn’t, we are doing something wrong. WE succeed as a company only when SMBs like yourself succeed.

    Hope that answers your questions.

  12. I have several clients who have advertised with DEX and in some cases yes DEX uses adwords or PPC on Directories to get placement. They list businesses with tracking phone numbers and point to their own listings – not the business website. Every single client said that they received almost NO new business from IYP advertising. The annual contracts are expensive and impossible to get out of. Some are on auto-renew and trying to get out is not very “smooth”.

    Still, I do see value for some businesses to advertise in the print yellow pages. But this is definitely not the future.

    Mike, I’m wondering how these tracking #’s might mess up the core NAP of a business. Have you experienced problems with this?

    @Andrew – thanks for joining the discussion.

  13. @Andy

    Thank you so much for that.
    Well, if you really want some feedbacks- i don’t mind providing you with. they’ll be long, informative, detailed & to the point. this will be a 1st hand feedbacks from my guys, who run the campaigns with you & calling to Super Media 3 times a week for the last 1.5 years.

    My email is puresheer@gmail.com.

    just shot me an email & in couple of days i’ll reply you with E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

    thanks!

  14. Thanks @Andrew for sending me the email. the ball is at my field now. Will reply in a couple of days.

    +++++on another note+++++
    @Mike, This is my 100th comment in your blog! i remember the 1st one as it was yesterday :):):)

    Thanks for all!

  15. I love when they call and try to tell me how much business I’m losing out on by not advertising in their books. Every once in a while someone will get me on the phone and tell me “This is where everyone is heading because the internet is too cluttered”.

  16. Andrew –
    Re: seeing increases in number of calls. I suspect there are a couple of trends behind that, but am interested in your thoughts as to why that is.

    Here are my thoughts:

    1) The decline in consumer print YP usage is not yet as steep as the decline in advertiser participation, meaning there are relatively more calls for fewer businesses. Of course, this only lasts for so long as after a while it would seem that a consumer opening the YP to see only 2 plumbers, they give up on the medium.

    2) I manage the YP program for a national advertiser and while we are seeing our calls increase (we put an RCF on every line in every book), we are also seeing (via call challenges on our RCF lines, ie “press 1 if you found this number in a print directory, press 3 if you found it online) that a good portion of the tracked phone calls that are attributed to print YP are actually coming from ONLINE. This, despite the fact that our RCFs are only placed in print directories. No one seems to be talking about this.

    Hypothesis is that the increases we have seen in YP call volume are due to more IYPs scraping print YP directories for data, resulting in RCFs showing up online and somewhat defeating the purpose of the call tracking. I say that because we don’t place much value in those online-generated calls as we know through our local search efforts that our local businesses can get those calls via inexpensive local search distribution (UBL, Localeze) ~$60/year.

  17. I love the Superpages and their business practices! It makes my job really easy to sell internet marketing services. Keep up the good work YP you are making all of us independent internet marketers look really good (and really affordable too). Last client I signed up moved a $5k per month budget over and we were able to reduce his spend AND easily increase his conversion ratio.

  18. @Andy
    Thanks for stopping by

    @Chris
    They do still have a url on the front page (it is attached to their name). The QR physically replaced what was a very obvious url.

    @Jeff
    Yes, I have seen several cases of call tracking numbers being scraped by Google and creating multiple listings and split citations for a given location. Worse I have seen a case where the original business lost control of the call tracking number and in the end a competitor ended up with that number.

    @Matt
    If you need to track your tracking, how does the value of call tracking value of it offset the negatives? Have you found that it confuses Google Places?

  19. @Mike
    “Tracking the tracking” has a lot of value to us, because once our testing is complete we plan to share our data directly with YP publishers as justification for significant reductions in what we are willing to negotiate for print YP advertising. In other words, we have data that says the value print is providing is less than previously thought, and that data will inform our negotiations. The YPA/industry has in my view (understandably!) been turning a blind eye to this phenomenon – but we are a large national advertiser with strong data!

    It’s hard to say if those scraped RCFs are having an impact on local search optimization – conventional wisdom says yes, but how much, unsure. Interesting, we have through a separate initiative noticed recently that where our locations use RCFs on their business web sites, Google is in almost every case still successfully picking those web sites up as citations for the correct business in Places’ “More About This Place” (despite the inconsistent phone #). So, maybe that inconsistent RCF phone number is not such a big deal anymore for citations, or at least not with Google Places?

    We are also working with our RCF provider who has partnered with UBL and Localeze to “flag” known RCFs in their data distribution, with our permission. Unfortunately they aren’t willing to “replace” known RCFs in their data with the actual underlying numbers – they don’t even want to know what the actual underlying number is, but will happily take an indicator just so they know it’s a tracking number. As I understand it this is because unlike us, most advertisers still want to use RCFs online, and would therefore have zero interest in having them replaced with the actual number online. The saga continues!

  20. haha

    “Yes, its almost getting to the point where I have stopped my cheering of their decline… its like cheering on a dying man…..”

    that is the the best stab I have heard taken at yellowpages in a looong time.

    I have a client who spends about 25,000 per year on yellowpages and is saying that if the client renews the contract and adds on ppc then they will personally spot them 6,500 throughout the year in ad spend. They are having to give free internet ads to keep big clients paying for something that doesn’t worry as well. Very sad.

  21. @Mike and all your followers –

    As I mentioned before, we are working hard on focusing on our customer’s needs to – in many instances – earn back their trust.

    The facts are print is still viable (independent data proves it) and companies like SuperMedia are best set up to take the content of our customers and get it into the hands of consumers – – whether it is print, online, socially, or via mobile.

    I encourage you and your followers to Like/follow SuperMedia on Facebook and Twitter. We will respond/address to any feedback you may have and we will provide you with pertinent marketing information to help grow your business.

    Best,
    Andy

  22. Hi There!

    Miriam Ellis hit the nail on the head. I myself have searched for local businesses and services on the internet but never get the results I am searching for. On many occasions, I have also requested quotes/services via online and never received a call back or response. How sad!! I pick up my local directory and make a quick call and all is well.
    But the sad part is…the business owner or representative makes a visit or you visit them and they never once ask how you found their business information. Business owners listen to the hype and believe the print is not working but it really is. So they dump all advertising dollars on the internet and don’t get the ROI they expect, putting themselves in a bind because an effective internet campaign is not cheap and you must have a dedicated person to manage it. That’s why large companies have IT departments.
    Are small businesses failing because of the economy? I don’t think so. They are confused on where and how to invest their advertising dollars.

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