Verizon Ranks As Leading Yellow Pages Publisher

Verizon Yellow Pages ranked No. 1 in usage in two of the nation's top directory markets -- Manhattan and Washington, D.C. -- according to the first public data to come from Knowledge Networks/SRI's new Yellow Pages Market Reporter (YPMR).

Verizon beat out national directory businesses in the process--including Ambassador and YellowBook, which have been building steam with acquisitions of dozens of local directory publishers over the last few years. According to the YPMR report, in Washington, Verizon netted 66.5 percent of usage versus YellowBook's 30.5 percent, while in Manhattan it garnered a 38.6 percent share versus Ambassador's 23.9 percent.

The new YPMR report, the Yellow Pages industry's equivalent of TV's Nielsen ratings, allow advertisers and media buyers to target spending more efficiently. But some media buyers who work with Yellow Page directories expressed skepticism about the comparison.

Jerry Brown, a spokesman for Colorado-based Dex Media, remarked: "KnowledgeNetworks has referred to them as a Nielsen's for the Yellow Pages, but television advertising is based on national numbers. When it comes to Yellow Pages, you're really looking at pricing that's market-by-market."

As a result, according to Brown, "its usage numbers and rankings are certainly relevant for particular markets, but I don't know that it's possible to generate Nielsen-style audience share numbers on a truly national basis--at least for the time being."

Other media buyers seem ambivalent about the new system. Tony Naccarato of CommNet Marketing said his company was reconsidering its original decision to adopt YPMR ratings, although he wouldn't give its reasons, remarking only that "overall, yes, we would be interested in that sort of data"--seeming to imply that the company was considering alternative measurement services.

Media buyers that have signed on for the YPMR results include Hurrelbrink Advertising, Ketchum Directory Advertising, Nationwide Yellow Pages, SMG Directory Marketing, TMP Directory Marketing, Wahlstrom Group, and YPM.

In the near term, the rankings caused a bit of commotion among the competing virtual Yellow Page publishers serving the Manhattan and D.C. markets. At the time of this posting, a spokesman for Ambassador was withholding comment, and YellowBook's media relations staff did not return calls. A number of major publishers including Associated Publishing, AT&T, BellSouth, and RH Donnelley--which also signed on to receive YPMR ratings--were also unavailable for comment.

There's no question that the usually placid directory industry is undergoing a great deal of transformation. In fact, of 10 companies named by KnowledgeNetworks as participating in this inaugural study, two merged--with RH Donnelly acquiring Dex Media. Meanwhile, Verizon, Ambassador, and YellowBook all claim preeminence in lucrative demographics, including the burgeoning Spanish-language market, relying on geographic particularity to buttress their claims.

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