According to a new study from the media advisory firm, Heernet Ventures, the US print and online yellow pages market should reach revenues of US$18.2 billion by 2012, . The study forecasts market growth from an estimated US$16.95 billion in 2007 to US$ 18.21 billion in 2012. While the local print market will decline by -1.5%, online yellow pages revenues will grow by 26.7%, and that doesn't account for mobile search revenues.
As more busy consumers look to their mobile phones for services, quick and easy to use free local search is the most likely area of growth. The Yellow Pages industry is best positioned to benefit from ad-supported directory services to help callers find the closest restaurants, favorite retailers and financial institutions. The Kelsey Group predicts ad-sponsored directory assistance via phone will grow from 270 million calls in 2007 to 2.1 billion calls in 2012, with most of those being mobile calls.
While local search marketing is well established, local-mobile search marketing is barely getting started. Marketers will spend $3 billion worldwide on mobile ads this year (ABI Research, April 2007), with spending expected to reach $11.35 billion by 2011 (Informa Telecoms & Media).
AT&T has just leveraged its Yellow Pages via mobile services that emulate local business ads and listings in the traditional print directory. According to AT&T consumer research, despite the bells and whistles of mobile devices and smart phones, "people still want the familiar Yellow Pages phone book that was in a drawer in their kitchen–but now they want it in the handset in their pocket."
Competition for mobile marketing and local search is heating up. In the last two years, Google introduced 1-877-520-FIND, followed by 800-GOOG411, and Microsoft acquired mobile directory service Tellme, leading Bill Gates to predict the end of the Yellow Pages within the next five years. This now infamous quote has everything to do with Microsoft's $800M purchase of Tellme and nothing to do with the current state of the Yellow Pages industry.
As print holds steady, particularly in Canada, and internet Yellow Pages continues to forge a solid online niche, do not underestimate the resilience and strength of the Yellow Pages directory publishers!