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The Kelsey Report® Advisory

Yellow Pages IMA '03: An Attendee's Perspective
Charles Laughlin , 2/24/2003

Issue: Concerns About Erosion, Digital Media Dominate Event

News: Last week, about 400 industry players gathered in Orlando for the Yellow Pages IMA Annual Convention. The meeting covered a three-day span and featured a mixture of content, but focused heavily on articulating the value of Yellow Pages to the media-buying community. Other themes included the development of new form factors, including mobile devices, for delivering directory content and the need for an emphasis on marketing to ethnic communities. The implications of last year's ownership changes on the directory marketplace were discussed as well.

The event also featured the transition of the association chair from Verizon Information Services CEO Kathy Harless to Elmer Smith, president of BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Group. In his speech, Smith delivered a blunt message that the industry's obsession with "bigger is better" has contributed to the erosion in the medium's advertiser base. Smith urged publishers to focus on horizontal growth (number of accounts and more heading expansion) rather than vertical growth (the average value of each account) in order to reverse the trend toward fewer advertisers supporting the revenue base. Smith had foreshadowed this theme a day earlier when, in a panel discussion, he remarked that advertiser erosion was not just a problem, but a "major problem" facing the industry.

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