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End of an Era: BIA Drops ‘Kelsey’ from Its Name

Surrealist clock

I worked for The Kelsey Group (TKG) from 2000 to 2006. I came in as managing editor and left as a “local search” analyst. I probably wrote the first report on whether search would adversely impact the directory industry — maybe 16 years ago.

Believe it or not it was an open question in those days.

Two years after I left, TKG was sold to BIA Financial Network. It became BIA/Kelsey and continued to do local media research and publish forecasts. Accordingly, this morning I received an email containing a provocative new forecast.

Locally targeted Google AdWords is slated to pass the total revenue of “all 11,044 commercial radio stations in the U.S.” and will rival local TV spending:

Local Google advertising exceeds the total local advertising generated by all 11,044 commercial radio stations in the U.S. and rivals the amount generated by all 1,282 full power commercial television stations in the U.S., according to BIA. With the continued more rapid growth of digital advertising, BIA forecasts that by 2022 local Google advertising will almost double the over-the-air advertising of the entire radio industry. BIA forecast

I was also struck by the absence of the “Kelsey” brand in the email. It’s now BIA Advisory services.

The people I worked with at TKG all gone. There’s a diaspora of sorts of former Kelsey analysts in various places now. Charles Laughlin and Neal Polachek are running LSA’s Tech Adoption program. Dan Miller, who exited before me, founded Opus Research. Peter Krasilovsky continues to cover the local arena on his blog, Local Onliner. Mike Boland started AR/VR analyst firm Artillry. Jed Williams is at LMA and others after my time have come and gone.

At one time TKG was synonymous with yellow pages and the directory industry. For some the change will mean the end of an era. It’s also something of a metaphor for change in the entire “local search industry” itself.

7 Responses to “End of an Era: BIA Drops ‘Kelsey’ from Its Name”

  1. The Kelsey Group was truly the glue of the local search industry in the post dot-com-implosion-boom. Local SEO Guide would have been a very different enterprise without TKG and the great people who worked there.

  2. Rick Ducey says:

    Greg:

    Thank you for your toughtful post, and yes, definitely end of an era and a metaphor for change.

    Of course, LSA saw this evolution as it evolved from its roots in YP to embrace more broadly the marketplace developments in digital. Hence, your name change back in April 2011 from the YP Association to the Local Search Association. It was right on. At the time, Neg Norton, LSA’s president told DMN, “We changed the brand because it’s really a better reflection of the products and services that our members are offering today . . . When you think about their businesses, they have all transformed their business models to include Yellow Pages, local search, wireless platforms, social media, online video and the like.”

    John Kelsey and his alumni from The Kelsey Group, both those who joined what became BIA/Kelsey, and those like you who earlier on moved to other posts in the industry, have been so influential in the YP industry both foreseeing and providing guidance for its transitions. The TKG team has much to be proud of, and clearly, more to come. It’s been my personal pleasure to work such quality professionals during their stints with BIA.

    As you note, BIA rebranded itself to reflect our new orientation in the market. We’re very excited about the changes, challenges and opportunities for the local industry as we look ahead. We see very important roles for market intelligence, analytics and insights, and advisory services. We’re committed both to providing market education and of course to the success of our clients and their customers.

    Thanks for the insightful work you and your colleagues at LSA do every day. And to the TGK diaspora, wishing you all the best. Go forth and prosper.

    Rick Ducey
    Managing Director
    BIA Advisory Services

  3. Redleaf says:

    Greg:

    You left out Nanci, Bobbi, Sheila and the other women of Kelsey and where they are today, I guess some things never change especially the male centric focus of this industry.

  4. Greg Sterling says:

    yes. you’re correct. My apologies. I partly didn’t discuss them because I don’t have contact with them and haven’t for years. Nanci is working for Street Fight I believe. Otherwise I believe Sheila is retired and Bobbi I haven’t talked to for more than a decade. The people I mentioned I either have ongoing contact with or have talked to within the last year.

  5. Greg Sterling says:

    You probably didn’t attend LSA18. If you had you would have seen the percentage of women on stage and featured speaking roles that women occupied. When I was planning conferences at TKG I also made this an area of focus and emphasis. So while “some things never change,” many things actually do change.

  6. Todd Webber says:

    I remember attending LSA and My first Kelsey in 2005 when there were these things called CMR’s. They couldn’t embrace the Digital age primarily because they couldn’t retain the Margin (and IMHO it brought a new level of accountability). Kelsey was the GoTo for new and leading edge startups and providers (Vendasta, CallSource, LocalEze, CitySearch, Solfo/Connectivity, etc…). We once tried to keep count of the startups by repeat attendance and still to date only a few have been able to crack the code and find Profitability. Kelsey – through their network alone – helped to Launch hundred’s of ventures all in search of the “Local” Holy Grail. We Saw the YP’s go under, we saw the early IPO’s flail, and we saw varying levels of data providers grow their business. John Kelsey was well respected in the industry and most of his Team were really good at what they did. But – like the YP, CMR, and Data providers their work has been consolidated and commoditized making it tough for many to find their way. RIP Kesley….

  7. Jesper Simonsen says:

    Thank you for a very nice post, Greg.

    To me John and his team were not only the glue in the directory world, they were also the ones who introduced the concept of local search and guided the whole industry in that direction.

    If you see John, please give him my warmest regards.

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