"We feel the newspaper channel has what local merchants need," says Vance Gorke, business development manager at Switchboard.
"It has online readers, and therefore traffic for the local merchant's message.Local news has tremendous brand equity and IYP offers users utility," he
adds."They complement each other to create repeat user traffic." Gorke
adds, however, that there is a "disconnect" between what merchants perceive as being the domain of the traditional newspaper sales representative and the print Yellow Pages sales representative.The key to making a sale, says Gorke
, formerly the technical systems administrator at The Standard-Times
in New Bedford, Mass., is differentiating newspapers and Yellow Pages through "merchant education centered around Internet Yellow Pages usage and the online newspapers readership compared to the local phone company's IYP product."
Startup Pangs: Low Traffic, Low Sales
While Internet Yellow Pages make sense for newspapers in theory, in practice, newspapers have struggled.Low traffic to the newspaper site's Yellow Pages, combined with limited sales at startup, has lead to a highly fragmented, unsatisfactory number of references for most categories.Given the results, "it's hard for us to charge advertisers $100 to $200 per month," says one online newspaper executive - especially when they are used to seeing a ROI of $14 for every $1 invested in the print Yellow Pages.But to make money, "We need to charge that and get a lot of businesses.
"Local ad sales are performing to our expectations," says Switchboard's Vance Gorke
, commenting generally."But in 2002, we're taking a more active role in assisting our partners with training and marketing initiatives.In many markets we are offering incentive plans directly to sales reps.We're seeing improvement in sales on a market-to-market basis."
Alternatively, some sites are beginning to see a little success selling Yellow Pages as stand-alone products.One increasingly popular strategy is to automate the sales process on the Internet via self-enrollment (or "self-serve") programs, where merchants can sign up and manage their advertising over the Web.