The Importance of Presence (and the Value of Print) in a Fragmented Search Landscape

The Importance of Presence (and the Value of Print) in a Fragmented Search Landscape
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Rebecca Frantz

With search capabilities available at the click of a mouse or a tap of a finger on a mobile device, it can be all too easy to dismiss print directories. However, print is simply not dying on schedule. The results of the 2012 Local Media Tracking Study, conducted by Burke, were released to the public via a Local Search Association (LSA) webinar presented in June. The study looked at 8,000 user interviews about media usage when searching for local businesses, focusing on Print and Internet Yellow Pages usage and how directory products fit in with the larger variety of search products available to consumers. Results showed that while there have been some year-to-year decreases in usage of these products, Print and Internet Yellow Pages are still a strong, viable source to drive quality leads to businesses.

IYP References over Three Years

Beginning with a look at overall references, Burke found that there were approximately 5.5 billion references to Print Yellow Pages (PYP) in 2012. This represents a 26% decrease from the 7.4 billion references in 2011. Burke and LSA attribute this usage decline to a combination of lower references and lower reach. Reach showed a 13% decline year over year, with 21% of consumers reporting weekly PYP usage compared to 24% of consumers who used PYP on a weekly basis last year. Of those who do reference PYP weekly, the average number of directory references per week has decreased from 2.65 in 2011 to 2.25 in 2012.

Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) usage also showed declines this year, decreasing 21% from 6.3 billion references in 2011 to 5.0 billion in 2012. Like PYP, IYP reach and references were lower this year than last. Consumers using IYP in the past year has decreased 10%, with 52% of consumers reporting annual IYP searches in 2011 and 47% of consumers reporting annual IYP searches in 2012. Number of weekly searches only declined 4%, decreasing from 3.27 average weekly searches in 2011 to 3.14 in 2012. It is important to note that these IYP references do not yet include mobile activity and/or traffic.  So, there is more usage to IYP than is represented by these numbers.

Print and Internet Directory products were not the only media sources showing year-to-year declines. In fact, when comparing Burke’s numbers looking at Past Month’s Reach from 2011 to 2012, data shows that monthly usage also shown monthly usage declines for Internet Search, Newspapers, Magazines and White Pages. Burke added the options of Daily Deal sites (like Groupon and LivingSocial) and Ratings and Reviews sites (like Yelp and Citysearch) to the study in 2012, and it is natural to see declines in media usage when new avenues for conducting local searches are introduced. BIA/Kelsey reported last year that consumers use an average of 7.9 sources when searching for local products and services, so again, it all comes back to managing presence across different media to ensure proper messaging is reaching consumers at all points of the research and purchase cycle.

The key takeaway from the presentation of the Local Media Tracking Study results was that usage of directory products may have experienced some year-to-year decreases, but Print and Internet Yellow Pages are still effective products that combine well with other media to extend reach. Decreases in usage are appearing in most media types as options in the search landscape increase, but with 5.5 billion references to print and 5.0 billion references to IYP, there is still very much a place for directory products in consumer search. As we move into a landscape that is so fragmented, presence management across all forms of media becomes paramount.  Directories – both Print and Internet, have a life beyond their traditional means.  Advertising in these media impacts online citations, ratings and reviews and eventually local content online – either directly, or through the synergy that exists between online and offline media in the fragmented landscape.

Rebecca Frantz, Marketing Research Analyst