YP’s Rowe: Hybrid Print/Digital Offerings Can Reinforce Value

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YP’s CEO Jared Rowe

YP’s 130-year-old advertising platform has been deep in the transition to digital for a while now. In the past, the print Yellow Pages was a dominant source of advertising for SMBs, but the company has engineered a slow-but-steady evolution, to the point where its digital revenue (finally) exceeds that of print — even as the decline of print has stabilized. The company currently counts roughly 62 million monthly unique users between digital and print on a monthly basis — with 72% uniquely digital, 12% uniquely print, and 16% using both.

In a speech at Borrell Associates’ recent Local Online Advertising Conference in New York a few weeks ago, YP’s CEO Jared Rowe, talked about where YP saw its sweet spot. In particular, he spoke of a “blended” print and digital model.

Following his presentation, Street Fight spoke with Rowe about the importance of YP’s longstanding brand and customer relationships, its focus on specific verticals and attribution, and how it helps modern SMBs meet their marketing goals.

What’s been the biggest challenge since you came on [as CEO] six months ago?

It’s more of a redirection of strategy. I wouldn’t even call it a challenge. It’s actually a fairly sizable opportunity. Because we have a business that is in the midst of transition — and has been in the midst of transition for a while — a lot of the work has been done. What you’re really seeing us do now is kind of hone the operating model and hone the execution strategy in a way that’s really more focused on client value than it has been historically. So, we think there’s a real opportunity with the blended solutions that I was talking about [on stage earlier].

What is your philosophy when it comes to build versus buy?

I’m simple when it comes to that. If something is a competitive differentiator and it’s sustainable, you build it. If it’s not, but it needs to become a component of your overall solution, you buy or you rent it. You will see us probably be a little bit more focused on an owned-and-operated audience, the engagement we can generate off of those properties and we have been for the last couple of years. But we will be augmenting our product set with other solutions that are provided by providers.

We’re currently doing a social pilot and we have a partner who’s really delivering the infrastructure for us to deliver that product to the clients. However, there’s two things that we bring to bear. One is we bring channels. We’ve got distribution channels so we’ve got that. Number two is we have data. We have first party data. We still have over 50 million uniques a month and these folks are coming to our site to buy. They’re lower-funnel buyers. So, applying that data from a targeting perspective and an audience creation perspective allows us to sell to somebody else’s audience and hopefully sell it in a sustainable and profitable way.

Part of the concern I have with audience extension is that when you sell to someone else’s audience the margin gets compressed over time. This will allow us to sell to somebody else’s audience, but we think do it in a way that gives us a right to do it and in a way that makes sense for our clients to buy it for less. One of the things you’ll hear me talk an awful lot about is I’m very client-centric.

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