TrueLocal takes a swipe at the Yellow Pages

I believe in the imminent death of that big fat phone book and it looks like the folks over at TrueLocal do as well. Not only do they believe in it, but they’re using it to take a massive swipe at their largest competitor.

Here are some great pieces from the site:

(Talking about Sydney) The number of people who use the Yellow Pages print directory less than once a month or don’t use it all has increased by 48% between 2002 and 2008.

Latest Yellow Pages Print Directory Attitudes Survey where 58% of Australian’s, if given the option, would choose not to have the Yellow Pages Print Directory delivered to their home (Core Data Research).

91.4% said they search the Internet when looking for a business.

77.5% of Australians use the YellowPages print directory less than once a month or not at all.

Whether those 77.5% of Australians are turning to TrueLocal or YellowPages online is another question. They may just be turning to Google/Google Maps or not searching for businesses at all.

I wonder how well this tactic is working for TrueLocal…


9 Responses to “TrueLocal takes a swipe at the Yellow Pages”

  1. 1 Adrian June 28, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Hi Scott,
    Firstly I would like to say that I do work for Sensis- Yellow Pages in particular. I am not in the PR or Marketing department, by the way, I am a face-to-face Account Manager, who is a very passionate believer in the Yellow Pages suite of products, both print and online, courtesy of a couple of hundred regular account customers I manage who tell me about the effectiveness of both products, but that is not why I am commenting here. Prior to working for Sensis, I worked as a Sales Representative at News Limited and was there when True Local was launched, so I do have an slightly educated suspicion as to why True Local has not yet and possibly never will reach its potential, but, once more that is another discussion entirely.

    I have looked at the source information of the True Local data and have a couple of observations I would like to make- I would like to make absolutely clear that these are my personal opinions. I do not and will not ever claim to speak for “the majority of Australians:

    1)True Local must really be desperate for customers if they need to go down this path. I know they got stiffed when Google dumped their directory content for Yellow Pages content for Google Maps.(Soemthing to do with Yellow Pages having the most accurate,complete, trustworthy and up-to-date business information I have heard some figures bandied around as exactly how much revenue True Local is haemorraging, but I will not mention any numbers here, simply due to the fact that is is heresay.

    (I have worked in 4 different advertisng mediums in my 10 years in advertising and I have to say that Yellow Pages is the only one where, generally, the sales force does not pooh-pooh other advertising media. Speaking for myself, if I think of a particular type of advertising that I believe my customers would benefit from, I will often recommend that they explore that option as vigorously as I make recommendations for my own products.)

    2) To quote from the True Local site-
    “The survey was an online poll of 1193 respondents between 20 and 59 years of age from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
    Quota sampling was carried out to ensure a representative sample of the Australian population.”

    Now, call me a bit thick, but how is using only an online poll ever going to give a truly representative sample of broader community attitudes and behaviors? Please show me a more balanced sample including telephone, doorstop and shopping centre results that show the same trends and I might give this a little more thought.
    That said, for the online-centric pool of respondents to this particular survey, those results were probably to be expected- like doing a poll of obese people and discovering that 77.4% of them had eaten at McDonalds in the last month.

    2)The sample size was of less than 2000 respondents in, while across a number of age groups and, one would assume, across all socio-economic quintiles, this again, is hardly representative of the entire Australian population
    aged 14 years+

    3)The Roy Morgan data- which, by the way, Yellow Pages invests very heavily in as well- that same source provides data to Yellow Pages that says Yellow Pages print usage was up 5% in December 2008 from the same period a year earlier- so either Roy Morgan is telling their subscribers what they want to hear or everybody is manipulating their numbers to suit themselves (as if ANYONE would ever do that haha!)

    4)Even the most committed Google-holics agree that the conversion rate of yellow pages searches to sales for transactional searches far outweighs anything a search engine can do and recently I have been comparing specific business category searches on with the same terms using the Google Adwords tool and, I must say, even for someone like myself who, if you were to cut me I would probably bleed yellow; I have been surprised at how few searches for many of these areas there actually are on Google.
    I still believe that people are using the internet- or individual websites, but are perhaps rather typing the url directly into a browser and avoiding the search engines- having looked up the web address in something like (amongst other off-line sources) the Yellow Pages!

    I would like to close this post with a quote from Malcolm Gladwell, the New York Times best-selling author of Blink, Tipping Point and Outliers. When asked about the future of print media Gladwell said:
    “Imagine that computers were invented 100 years ago and paper only yesterday. Then someone hands you a printed newspaper. You think – wow – this is really cool. I don’t need to charge it, plug it in, worry about batteries, can toss the sections I like in my bag, write on it, tear out articles and share them with friends … all for about 25 cents! You wouldn’t throw away your computer but you would appreciate the attributes of this new technology.”
    Bottom line, Yellow Pages should continue to embrace delivering leads regardless of platform but a media mix that doesn’t include traditional print advertising is simply not a complete mix.”

    And if you are still reading this, then thank you for taking the time to do so and I hope to encourage the debate further- the fact that there even is a debate shows that the Yellow Pages, in it’s myriad “multi-channel” forms is still a force to be reckoned with- your competition doesn’t go to this much effort if they don’t perceive a genuine threat!

  2. 2 Scott Middleton June 28, 2009 at 8:05 am


    Thank you for your very insightful comments.

    I agree with your point about who the respondents were and how the survey could be very biased is a great one.

    After reading your comments and doing some research this morning I’m starting to see two sides of the story and would like to explore it further.

    I have two questions:

    1. Are most small business ignorant of online media? How is small business ignorance of online media influencing the power of the printed directory? How is my knowledge of technology influencing my perception of this question?
    2. What happens in 5 years/10 years/20 years when the online generation grows up? I might be biased but I haven’t picked up a phone book in years.

    And some things that I will add:
    – A statement supporting the strength of the directory:
    – A small business owner talks about the decline in print based leads:

    I’m looking forward to hearing back from you! 🙂


  3. 3 Adrian June 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you Scott. I appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

    I used to see red (or should that be yellow!)about some of the diatribe written about the imminent demise of print media until it was pointed out to me by a wiser head that any non-online media was not likely to get much of a sympathetic hearing in the blogosphere- simply due to the nature of that audience and their habits- so I now try to take a less emotional and more rational approach to this argument (and funnily enough, that has also helped me deal with this issue better in my day to day job too!)

    Again- my responses are one man’s opinions and despite my day job, I am endeavouring to be as objective as possible here.

    To answer your first question; “1. Are most small business ignorant of online media? How is small business ignorance of online media influencing the power of the printed directory? How is my knowledge of technology influencing my perception of this question?”

    I take it you have also stumbled across the ABS data on Internet Usage/Broadband penetration, which would pose the “ignorance of online media” part of your question?

    I doubt, from my experience, if most small businesses are ignorant of online media. It does seem to be matters of degrees. This depends on their own particlar set of customers and quite possibly their own experience with Online Media, or even their own search habits.

    I guess that if you were to drill down to the reason that many SME’s go into business in the first place, would be that a friend, family member or business associate offered to pay for something that had simply been either a hobby, passion or skill,(not unlike yourself and the book on web site development you were given as a boy); or, found that there was not a business around that catered to their hobby, passion or skill and thought “Wow! Well, if there are other people like me around, then surely I can make money from opening a business that specialises in this selling to people like me!”

    With that in mind- if you perceive that “your customers” would only use flyers, or local newspapers, or Yellow Pages, or Google, or word-of-mouth, then you will start with that and unless proven otherwise, if you get the result you were expecting possibly will not dabble in other forms of media. Why? Well, extra costs for one; fear of it not working another.

    I have probably found that general apathy in business seems to be the reason why this ignorance of Online Media may exist. I quite often ask non-Online customers of mine, or customers without a website why they are not exploring this revenue stream for their own business and it is usually a case of “I have been too busy” “I registered a domain name but never did anything more” or “I tried it a while back and it did not work for me”.

    With your knowlege of technology, yes, your perception of this question always will perhaps been seen as an “ignorance”. If I can offer an alternate view- You will never, ever, be able to reach every consumer by going purely Online- any more than you can do so by only using Print media, or Broadcast media. If you want a complete marketing mix, you do need to be across the multiple platforms that consumers search in- in reality, unless you have bottomelss pockets, this is impossible for an SME. What an SME CAN do however- and this is a really positive thing that Internet has done (because you can measure traffic volumes, and origins and bounce-rates etc) is encourage businesses to try and capture as much raw data about how people find them as possible- and them work out their conversion rates and ROI from this. Not only does this give an SME some accurate numbers to give the bank manager when applying to extend the overdraft, or the accountant when working out budgets
    but it takes the guesswork out of where to spend advertisng dollars. One simple way to do this that I suggest to my customers is to ask every person they sepak to in on the phone, is “Can you tell me what page of the Yellow Pages my ad is on?”- now, if they have the book open they will tell you. If they have not used the book, in my experience, they caller will generally volunteer the information- “oh, I found your number on the fridge magnet you gave me years ago” The downside of this is that it only captures telephone traffic- not people who may have gotten your number from a website, or walk in traffic…The difficult bit is having the discipline to do this with every customer you talk to- be they a new customer or existing! Easier in some types of businesses than others!

    In answer to your 2nd question “What happens in 5 years/10 years/20 years when the online generation grows up? I might be biased but I haven’t picked up a phone book in years.”

    That is the unknown quantity. I would hazard a guess that radio did not kill newspapers, tv did not kill radio, pay tv and downloadable movies did not kill cinema and mobile phones have not killed the internet! So the Internet will not kill Yellow Pages. Rather, like all of those examples, will actually enhance and complement it!
    If we go off some of the raw numbers pulled from Yellow Pages data both Online server search stats and Metered Number print data, Roy Morgan data and Google traffic figures, to name a few, it would seem at first glance that the more options that are being offered to Australians for local search, Australians just seem to search more, rather than migrating from one to another!

    The bigger threat to newspapers and yellow page/directory and print media (and online media- think the first crash 9 years or so ago) in general is, in my opinion, Private Equity ownership undermining the financial foundations of investment into training, recruitment, marketing and r&d and skimming the profits for themselves or baying shareholders, but causing once juggernauts of revenue into empty shells of themselves.

    I can only speak for what Yellow Pages in Australia is doing to appeal to that generation,things like the portable, glossy companion or “In The Car” print directory (which, while originally designed for tradespeople out on the road, has found a new audience of 20-somethings, and high-rise apartment dwellers who have embraced this) ; search engine partnerships and affiliate sites syndicating Yellow Pages content online into more and more vehicles; Yellow Mobile- possibly the “next big thing”- here in Australia we are still probably 10 years behind somewhere like Japan with this technology (thinking QR codes and similar)and the like.

    To make a brief comment on the Bill Gates posts- there is an argument on both sides- pros and cons on each. The North American market is much more fragmented than here- In Australia, there is only one Yellow Pages to contend with- in most US and many Canadian areas, there are (were) somewhere between 6-12 yellow pages publishers in any given market,some owned by Telcos, others owned by private equity and sure- in those markets, to cover the entire population, you would need to be in all of them- that “free market” model was never going to be sustainable long term and in a much more internet- advanced society as North America (and much of europe) is, I am not surprised to hear some of these issues. From where I sit, my view would be that maybe the Yellow Pages industry overseas could counter some of their own self-inflicted issues by merging into a smaller, more coherent, multi-channel publisher to remain relevant and influential in the decades to come

  4. 4 mark June 29, 2009 at 10:12 am

    We publish (since 2004) a genuine “Pocket Size” printed directory covering the Surfcoast of Australia, we have always believed that we are in the Information delivery business. Now, it is very tempting to beleive that everyone does the same thing i.e. they all use Yellow pages, or they all read local newspapers etc. And now they all use Google, not only is that assumption incorrect, it simply does not happen in reality, we use what we find useful at the time of seeking the information we are looking for. So I agree with Adrian, the demise of the Print Media is being greatly exagerated and as long as the Print media adapts to the changing patterns of information delivery, it will like any other product or service and will live or die at the hands of the consumer, if they continue to use it stays if they don’t it goes – no big deal either way.

  5. 5 Michael August 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

    We are a small business in the health industry and have found online media, in its many forms, the most cost effective method to reach our market. ROI is easily measured and spend (CPC), in many cases, can be adjusted when required to meet market conditions; example holiday periods etc.
    Yellow Online, has been an excellent source of new business for us however print (when we used it 8 or 9 years ago) was basically useless. Yellow Print cost per call was over six times that of its online cousin. Other print mediums, example local press, are also a waste of money, for our type of business.
    Whilst spend in Yellow Online is a fixed increasing cost it still gives excellent ROI however we are also very lucky we got in very early and have top positioning in all our service categories. I don’t think we would achieve the same result if we were not above the fold (search results 1 – 5).
    True Local does have reasonable ROI however nowhere near the reach of Yellow Online. True Local, is, at best, a reasonable addition to the marketing mix however definitely not a replacement.
    The biggest issue with Yellow is the way they carve up their offerings: Yellow Online, Yellow Mobile, 1234, etc. etc. It seems there is a new variation of the same product hitting the market fairly regularly and each one has a fixed per annum cost.
    Our spend with Google is over five times our spend with Yellow because it is absolutely measurable. Each new product coming out of Sensis requires us to invest for a year and hope we get a result. As a business advertising in over 10 categories, we are better off increasing spend in Google and its Networks, where we can measure the result and adjust spend accordingly from day one, rather than take a risk on another Sensis derivative. We can measure Sensis results however the spend is committed for a year so if it doesn’t work the investment is lost. Sensis rely on existing advertisers to be the early adopters (the risk takers) or potentially miss the boat on getting in early and therefore achieving best positioning. Great if the medium works, not so good if it fails. If Sensis were to adopt a Cost Per Lead model, for their Yellow derivatives, SME’s would more willingly advertise.

    What is interesting is that other media will consider measureable models. We have had approaches, in recent times, from Radio and Magazine Publishers, who, when pushed, will provide distressed advertising on a CPL basis. No lead no cost marketing opens up opportunities for all stakeholders. The media is going to air or publishing anyway. Better to have an advertiser, willing to pay for leads rather than no one at all, when there are still spots to fill at deadline.

  6. 6 Scott Middleton August 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you so much for your response. Many of the businesses I’m out talking to about infome and say exactly the same thing.

    Which is why we’ve adopted the cost per lead model.

    One of the biggest problems with the cost per lead model is that in many businesses it is difficult to track where your customers are coming from. And on Sensis, infome and TrueLocal’s side it is also difficult to track how many leads were generated. This is why CPL is difficult to implement.

    • 7 Michael August 17, 2009 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Scott,

      CPL can be relatively easy to measure across all media if you take time to plan and implement your campaigns.

      Convincing media to accept CPL is of course another issue and somewhat off topic. Let me just say that it can be done if you negotiate a deal that has mutual rewards.

      Back to CPL Marketing:

      Getting administratively allocated 1300 numbers, via one of the many local telco resellers, is the first step. These numbers are then used in your advertising to determine which media generated the call. There is also a whole heap of business Intelligence that comes from using a system like this which can then be applied to future campaigns. Next step is to hook up with a reporting system that allows you to measure calls and gather intelligence from each of the different media in your campaigns.

      Again there are a number of organisations providing these services at affordable rates.

      There are other methods of measurement and interaction with customers that can also be applied once you have 1300 numbers working for you. SMS response to 13/1300, which is now available on Telstra, Optus and Virgin networks (and hopefully Voda and Three in the not too distant future), opens up a myriad of interactive measurable marketing opportunities across all media.

      SME’s, now more than ever before, have greater flexibility for their marketing mix and excellent opportunities to investigate media, in addition to Google Adwords, Yellow Pages, True Local etc, that in the past were likely out of reach. As I mentioned, in an earlier post, we are a small business within a niche market, which has a prospective audience defined very much by location. Using the above methods allows us more opportunities to run very measurable campaigns in a myriad of media that in the past we would have never considered due to cost.

      As small business owners we have to constantly challenge our thinking when marketing for new business and interacting with existing customers. Even Google, which offers an easily measureable form of marketing, is very quickly pricing itself out of reach for many businesses.

      Bid prices for specific keywords in some industries have risen dramatically over recent years. Unfortunately many of these keywords are becoming unrealistically priced due to ‘directories’ and other organisations, which have no relationship to the keyword, bidding and forcing the prices up. These organisation are attempting to get users over to their websites to “search again” thereby lifting their visitor numbers which has a direct impact on their advertising revenue. The merry-go-round suits Google and the website owners as they both achieve a monetary outcome. It doesn’t necessarily suit the user and it certainly doesn’t help the smaller Adword advertisers.

      You don’t have to spend too much time on Google and other search engines to realise that often, there is a whole lot of rubbish to wade through before you actually find what you need after hitting search.

  7. 8 Audio Shop June 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    TrueLocal are an awful company with no contact details – they hide their information because they have so many complaints.

  1. 1 Many still use the Yellow Pages | Net Magellan Trackback on June 29, 2009 at 4:25 pm

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