Natural Search Blog


SuperMedia + Dex One = SuperDex

I was recently speculating about a possible SuperMedia – Dex One merger which could be hinted-at by the two companies cross-distribution agreement. If the two companies do merge, what might be their combined product or company brand name? Here’s a portmanteau brandname logo I came up with:

SuperMedia + Dex One = SuperMedia + Dex One = SuperDex

Actually, I since discovered that “SuperDex” is the trademarked name of a chromatography product, so that potential brand name is in-use and not available!

Perhaps some other brand name could result from the theoretic union of yellow pages companies, like “SuperKnows” or “DexMedia”. Maybe even “DexPages” or “SuperOne”!

It would probably be ultimately least expensive to keep one dominant brand name — I think Superpages has more brand equity overall, so that’s what I would vote towards.

Local Store Inventories Might Help Yellow Pages SEO

In an article posted on Search Engine Land this morning, I outline how Google Maps are increasingly appearing for keyword searches, reducing referral traffic to internet yellow pages. In a brief companion piece, I also mention how embattled yellow pages should step-up their SEO game. If Google Trends is truly indicative of a sea-change that is hitting online yellow pages sites, then they must do something about it:

Top IYPs & Business Directory Sites
Natural Search Performance of Top Yellow Pages Sites in Google

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Is Verizon Responsible for Idearc’s Bankruptcy?

Idearc's Bankruptcy Caused by Verizon?My op-ed piece, “Idearc’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Who’s Really Responsible?” published today on Search Engine Land, and in it I put forth my position that Verizon is responsible for spinning off the company with an unreasonably huge debt load, and the people ultimately paying the bill are the stockholders.

I describe in the article how Verizon spun off Idearc Media (division which publishes print phone books and operates Superpages.com among other online yellow pages), and set that company up to pay back some billions of dollars for its worth. Verizon then turned around and resold those debt instruments to other companies, fully divesting itself of ownership in the new, standalone company.

This sequence in of itself isn’t remarkable – it’s the normal process a company might go through when spinning-off part of itself to form a new company.

But, my contention is that it was done so in a highly irresponsible manner. Verizon had to know beforehand that print directory business was going into shrinkage mode, and that the debt repayment structure would simply be too much for the new company to be reasonably expected to be able to handle. If so, then this could be expected to be a form of fraudulent conveyance, and Verizon could be culpable.

Is my contention outrageous?

Well, even Idearc’s Chief Executive, Scott Klein, has been paraphrased by the Wall Street Journal as saying “Everyone was aware that ‘$9 billion was really more debt than this business could bear'”. So, Idearc was spun off with a majority of this debt from Verizon from the start – clearly set up to fail.

So far, I’ve seen maybe three different law firms filing class-action lawsuits against Idearc and its executives, based on the premise that the stock tanked due to them secretly changing policies, resulting in inflated-looking sales on the books for businesses with higher likelihoods of not paying for contracted advertising. But, I think the real culprit in all this is likely Verizon – they pushed off a part of the company with an untenable debt load, in large part to pay off debts incurred by Verizon FiOS (Verizon’s fiber optic network) expansion.

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Superpages.com Adds More User-Generated Content to the Local Mix

About a week ago, Idearc announced that Superpages.com had introduced more user-content features.

Superpages adds Web 2.0 Features
(click to enlarge)

Previously, the primary component of user content on the site was limited to user ratings and reviews associated with business listings.

Some of the new features this recent upgrade added include allowing all users to enhance basic biz profile information, uploading pictures of organizations, wiki-like biz listing “blog” features which could allow simplistic blogging by businesses and/or could be used as a consumer comment or Q/A zone for each business since any user could submit info to them.

Of all the top online yellow pages and local search sites, I believe that Superpages may now have the distinction of having the greatest (more…)

News: Pat Marshall new Chief New Media Officer for Yellow Book

The Wall Street Journal reports that Patrick Marshall, Superpages.com veteran, has just been named as Chief New Media Officer for Yellow Book.

Yellow Book USA Logo

I used to work with Pat back when he was President of New Media Services at GTE, overseeing Superpages.com back when it was brand new, and I know him to be a fantastic businessman. Pat is well-known in the yellow pages industry and was the recipient of The Kelsey Group’s New Technologies Leadership Award in 2002.

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Superpages Launches LocalServe Affiliate Program

Superpages.comI see that my former company, Idearc Media, finally launched the Superpages LocalServeSM Affiliate Program.

LocalServe was developed by one of the development teams reporting to me during the past year before I left, and it was quietly in beta release up until now.

This is a great way for local info sites and vertical industry-related sites to make money, and the content is perfectly compatible for those niche markets. Superpages has a very rich set of general listings and local search advertisers which can enhance the content of local and vertical sites, while also providing a good revenue stream.

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Bill Gates Predicts Demise of Yellow Pages

Last week at the Microsoft Strategic Account Summit 2007, Bill Gates interacted with Microsoft’s Corporate VP and Chief Media Officer, Joanne Bradford in an interview/Q&A session, and he predicted that among those under 50, yellow pages usage would drop down to zero within five years!

Anti-Yellow-Pages

Now, he was apparently speaking solely about the print yellow pages, but the statement still seemed a tad bit bearish, considering that Microsoft is partnered closely with my former company, Idearc Superpages.com, one of the largest yellow pages companies (print or otherwise) in the world, to license the yellow pages data and service for use in Microsoft’s Live Local Search, and for the MSN Yellow Pages.

Now, Gates isn’t alone in predicting the demise of printed directories, since many others have also foreseen their eventual extinction, including me. But I think that other analysts out there have stated terms more in the ten-year range. Even if the numbers of some directories are declining, I still note that usage and sales are still very strong, so I’d be inclined to expect that print YP will likely go on for longer than five years.

It could be even longer, if there’s some more revolutionary tech introduced, such as I earlier suggested in “Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

UPDATE: Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, also posted on his blog about the Summit, and he quoted a Seattle Times report which gave a further quote from Bill Gates about the yellow pages:

The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend.

Dodge further states:

Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of MotionBridge and Screentonic, coupled with the acquisition of TellMe will support Gates vision of search and advertising on smart phones.

       

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Superpages Launches New Redesign

I noticed that my old company, Idearc Media, just launched a major new redesign today for their primary web property, Superpages.com:

Superpages new redesign

Read on for a few of my comments about it.

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Superpages to Factor CTR into Ad Rankings

I noticed that Greg Sterling just reported over at Search Engine Land that Idearc Media’s Superpages is going to begin factoring in ad click-through-rates into the measures used for ranking ads on the vast networks of sites where Superpages content appears. I was aware of this plan prior to my departure from Superpages, and I think it’s one of the cooler things my old teammates are developing.

Superpages.com

Naturally, this follows other major ad networks who do similar things. Google, for instance, has begun using quality scores to decide ad rankings and the pricing of the ads.

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Google Cubed: Our Cubes are Bigger than Google’s!

This past month we noticed that a company started moving into the empty office space adjacent to ours. We’re located in Texas, inside the great Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The office space in the strip of buildings next to us has been vacant a long time. Some of our customer-care folx stopped and asked the electricians who was going to be moving in: it’s Google.

Google Audio Ads

A few of us in management were a bit concerned, because it was entirely odd that Google would choose, out of the entire, huge, gigantic, sprawling metro area, to park themselves *smack* next to us! We couldn’t help but wonder if they were planning to lure away some of our advertising specialists! After all, we knew that they apparently had a small office in nearby Irving where they had AdSense optimizers, so it was conceivable that they might think that poaching our employees might give them skilled people quickly. There’s so much office space in the entire metro area, that it virtually defied reason to consider that they only coincidentally located offices next to us.

However, one of our marketing staff finally came back with the intel that this was to be offices for Google Radio (aka “Google Audio Ads”) — not something all that related to what we do. So, maybe it is coincidence, and not a snarky attempt to leach away our talent.

The workmen appear to’ve mostly finished setup, and it seems like people are starting to work in the building. So, I strolled over there after work and took some pics through the windows. I was stunned to see that Google’s cubes are actually smaller than ours!

4-Cube Cluster, Google Radio
(click on the pic to enlarge)

Read on for more description and more pics.

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