Dateline June 9, 2006
For years I’ve believed the yellow pages directories, as we know them (large clunky paperback books) are likely to go the way of buggy whips, dinosaurs and low taxes but I didn’t know when. Although I still hesitate to give an exact date of the last such book to be published I will unequivocally say by the end of this decade we will all be able to pronounce all but the healthiest of such books to be terminally ill. I might add by that time it would be easier to find an honest politician than finding a healthy yellow book. Add on another five years and yellow books will be collector’s items.
Why such a dire prediction for a publication icon that just 20 years ago was the ONLY source for local business information? Simple. The Internet. It’s no coincidence that Verizon the owner of the largest network of yellow books across the country has been trying to sell its yellow pages print division for six months now with no takers while developing Internet portals and other methods for businesses to utilize their network to land customers.
So, now that we know the yellow pages as we know it is dead where do we go from here? Will it be the plethora of on-line yellow pages e. g. superpages.com, yellowpages.com, yellowbook.com, yp.com (Google lists 184,000 such resources) or will it be mega sites such as Google, Aol or Yahoo? My money is on a split market. Large portals like Google will serve half the space vacated by the yellow dinosaurs and the other half will be dominated by local community portal websites with a focus on local information including business directories. The player that secures and leverages the appropriate domain for the community in question will fill this local portal space in each market.
We are already beginning to see local sites take shape across the country and without exception the successful sites seem to have one thing in common: The best possible domain for the given area. For example in New York it’s newyork.com in Frederick, Maryland it’s Frederick.com and so on. The domain is critical because we can assume that competitors all have access to the same technology and since there is no longer a dominant telecom with monopoly access to phone information the playing field is relatively level with the exception of the competitor with the proper domain.
As time goes by we can expect a lot of consolidation in this space with larger players buying out wildcatters such a realtors who may have purchased one or two community domains years ago to use in their Real Estate business. Smaller networks of such community sites such as the AreaGuides Network will also be takeover targets. In the end the big players may have their global portal and a network of local portals. Time will tell.
Also see: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2005/tc20051208_840757.htm?campaign_id=rss_tech