Perfect Together? p. 13

By: M.L. Stein President of Yellow Pages Publishers Association says he's
ready to begin dialogue with Newspaper Association of America
on the possibility of working together on common concerns

NEWSPAPERS AND YELLOW Pages publishers, once seemingly implacable foes, may have a future together after all, it was suggested at the recent Media Alliances Conference in San Diego.
In fact, James Logan, Jr., president of the Yellow Pages Publishers Association, said his organization is ready to begin a dialogue with the Newspaper Association of America with the idea of working together on common concerns.
One example, he added, would be NAA's research on standards for ad sizes, which also is an issue of interest to YPPA.
Logan said that after checking with NAA, the Direct Marketing Association and other media-related groups, YPPA noted that "not only were we all doing the same studies but, not surprisingly, we were all coming out at about the same place."
The speaker said he believes the future of media lies in mergers, a process already taking place.
"The differences between newspaper companies, radio companies, television networks, telephone companies ? even software companies, computer companies and on-line companies ? are becoming less clear," Logan observed.
He contended that the development of new media will create new issues, requiring the training of both users and advertisers, as well as the establishment of industry-wide standards, information programs and new ethics codes.
"Associations provide a neutral safe harbor for competitors to come together for the benefit of the industry at large," Logan added. "In periods of rapid change, associations can play an important strategic role . . . and can be a cost-effective and powerful way to move industries forward effectively."
Matthew Stover, president and CEO of Nynex, an information resources firm involved in Yellow Pages and databases, was another speaker who sounded the call for information-related companies to form strategic alliances for profit.
Nynex, he noted, already has initiated a project with Newsday that, said Stover, is scheduled to be the first advertiser-supported, on-line Yellow Pages, and is scheduled to kick off in January on Prodigy.
To achieve successful alliances, Stover urged that interested companies stop defining themselves in terms of technology and individual product.
"Instead of calling ourselves newspapers, Yellow Pages, software companies, audiotex services, and so forth, we should acknowledge our common identity and purpose and identify ourselves as information companies," he said.
"We are entering a world where the differentiation will not be on how you transfer bits but on their quality, availability and attractiveness," said the executive.
Stover contended that a clear distinction should be made between business alliances and mergers or acquisitions. An alliance, he pointed out, recognizes that a firm will learn more, grow faster and ultimately be more successful by cooperating with other companies than by going it alone.
"All parties may not wind up with the same benefits from an alliance, but we will all get some benefits and the industry will grow," he stated.
Stover also stressed that information providers should stop "stereotyping" customers as subscribers or users.
"They are not subscribers or users; they are people who will define the killer application for us," he said, noting that companies should "treat customers as individuals. We have the savvy and technical skills to communicate with them and enrich their ability to communicate. Shame on us, if we squander our advantages by not considering what customers want."
Bell Atlantic has embraced the alliance idea with the introduction of Infotravel, an interactive version of the Yellow Pages that is available on hotel-room TV screens, according to Robert Graham, president of the company's directory services.
The system provides travelers with detailed information about restaurants, places of interest, and services in their local area. The hotel's front desk will even print out a map for guests on how to get to their desired destination.
Graham indicated that it's too early to tell if the program will be successful ? the bulk of the computer hookups will be made in 1995 ? but he stressed that a lot of research was employed to assure Bell that it had a good chance of coming up with a hit.
Graham added that some alliances have failed because they lacked a "viable market.
"Alliances are filled with risks," he warned, "but if you wait too long you could be crowded out of the market. We're charting a new course on the electronic frontier that will produce new customers and expanding profits."
Earl Mix, Jr., president and chairman of Centennial Media Corp., another large Yellow Pages producer, said YPPA research has shown that Yellow Pages partnerships with other media work out well.
When an advertiser's message is incorporated into Yellow Pages and other media, he noted, the number of people who are influenced by the message increases up to twice as much, compared to its impact on television and radio or in newspapers and magazines.
"This is a compelling reason for Yellow Pages to understand, explore and experiment with other media, in creating new ways to support delivering the advertiser's message with greater cross-media weight," Mix asserted.
Centennial, he said, has put this theory to work in its alliance with KKTV in Boulder, Colo. Mix said that the station's original information package of weather, sports and stocks reports is far more readily available through the distribution of Centennial's directory.
Although he shied away from projections of double-digit revenue growth due to their participation, Mix was still bullish on the subject of partnerships.
"Media is changing," he explained. "We must be involved despite the uncertainties of the outcome, for it is only in this way that we can help shape the future arrangements of media packages . . . to help our customers reach their customers."


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