A Different Take on hibu & Yellow Pages: Response to WSJ Article

On Friday the Wall Street Journal published an article that broadly characterized local search and directory company hibu and the yellow pages industry more generally as a group of “multibillion-dollar turnarounds [that] have failed.” That both paints with too broad a brush and is inaccurate.

To varying degrees all traditional media companies in the U.S. have struggled to make the transition from reliance on their traditional revenue sources toward greater diversification and emphasis on digital. Newspapers, yellow pages, radio, magazines and even TV are dealing with versions of the same challenge.

For example, NBC’s TV ratings for the RIO Olympics are way down vs. four and eight years ago, because of defections from cable and a shift among younger viewers to streaming video.

Similarly, the yellow pages industry is in the midst of a multi-year shift, which has obviously not been without its fits and starts. The bankruptcies discussed in the WSJ piece reflect some of the industry’s struggles. However most of the major publishers have made the transition and are now more digital than print centric.

YP, for example, generates more than $1 billion annually in digital revenue and is now a leading mobile-location intelligence company with 70 million users across its multiple properties.

DexMedia is offering new SMB digital marketing platforms in Dex Hub, which provides an integrated suite of tools that track the full cross-platform customer journey.

Yellow Pages Group, the Canadian publisher, generates more than two-thirds of their revenues from digital media.

The Berry Company, following the acquisition of numerous technology companies over the past several years, has now rebranded as Vivial. Print directory publishing is just one small aspect of the company’s diversified set of offerings, which are now primarily digital.

hibu, the focus of the WSJ article, operates in multiple countries. It counts 80% of its UK revenues from digital and has a leading position in the Spanish market as well. In the U.S., digital marketing services revenues are growing well and now account for a significant share of revenues, and the company’s financial and operating metrics are ahead of expectations according to Kevin Jasper, CEO of hibu US.

Kevin said the transformation and performance of the business has been solid over the past two years. The company is now putting new financing in place, reflective of a more stable and sustainable company. He believes hibu is poised to be a leader in the US digital market, delivering marketing services to small businesses.

None of this is to minimize the challenges, many of which are ongoing. But it’s important to point out that the notion that yellow pages companies are simply stuck in the past or “have failed” and are not adapting to the dynamic digital market is simply incorrect. hibu and others are proving that.

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