Commentary

YP Opportunity Points To Machine Learning

Local, mobile and logged-in location-based advertising that leverages 8 terabytes of data monthly to connect buyers and sellers seems like a lofty goal for any company -- especially one that does not yet rely on artificial intelligence or machine learning -- but not for Jared Rowe, who took the helm as CEO of YP.com in August 2016.

Rowe, who joined YP from Cox Enterprises, where he served as president of Cox Automotive, believes the new YP can become more nimble and "iterate more quickly at a much higher rate" and bring in data that connects buyers and sellers in a more intelligent way.

While the whole idea behind the marketplace is to highlight businesses with local marketers that can fill the needs of buyers, there's one thing missing. YP isn't using AI today, but "there's clearly a trend in that direction and with the data assets we have we believe that will be part of our future."

Could you imagine the pairings if YP tweaked its business model to integrate AI or some soft of machine-learning technology?

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Part of YP's strategy is to connect buyers with sellers, but it also focuses on integrating digital with print for advertisers, Rowe said. The two work better together to increase the frequency of reach and reduce the cost per lead, which has been steadily dropping. About 70% of YP advertisers buy both. In the past year the company has pushed traditional advertising such as coupons into digital and digital into traditional, he said.

Rowe boasts that 77% of the people who visit the site contact a merchant, and 66% make a purchase.

YP also offers a video service, but Rowe said company executives are working on ways to offer different types of video services. "Frankly, I'd like to see a higher adoption rate," he said, explaining that this is because it's a great way for local businesses to represent their services.

Most companies listed on YP are local businesses -- "entrepreneurs risking everything to support their families and local communities."

YP manages massive amounts of data, a whopping 8 terabytes of data monthly. The data comes from more than 50 million digital monthly visitors and 20 billion monthly events such as clicks, searches, impressions, photo uploads, reviews, calls and more.

There were nearly 1 billion searches online across the YP.com and YP Network in 2016 on desktop and another 1 billion on mobile, according YP internal data. The company says its mobile app has been downloaded more than 21 million times since launching the app, and that there are about 10 million registered users of its Web site and apps.

It's amazing to think that this company has been in business for more than 100 years and has nearly half a million paying advertisers in the U.S. across categories such as home improvement, healthcare, auto, legal and financial services.
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