I continue to hear rumors and rumblings of big changes in the yellow pages industry, and it seems like almost anything could happen in terms of restructuring, mergers and acquisitions. I just learned of a layoff at Yellowbook over the weekend — according to the news report they are saying they’ll cut 70 jobs, nationwide.
There were very recent rumors that Yellowbook might be sold by Yell company, and that it could be an acquisition target for some other major companies. The layoffs are further underscoring unrest and change at the company, so there could be something to the M&A rumors. Some possible buyers have been theorized, including Google and Yellow Pages Group.
I’ve also heard AT&T’s name floated about as potentially interested in Yellowbook — they keep getting whispered about as a possible suitor for buying some of the big YPs. As I reported earlier, AT&T might acquire Dex One and/or SuperMedia.
My theorizing of a “trifecta merger” for AT&T/Dex/Superpages smacks more than a bit of pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking for faltering yellow pages companies, but could we go even farther out there and ask if AT&T might be doing a giant roll-up strategy that brings Yellowbook into the mix as well? The idea of a four-way merger seems terribly fantastic and sounds too much like the ravings of anti-monopolistic paranoiacs who are afraid that Ma Bell might be re-forming itself.
Considering the logistical and legal hurdles involved when just two companies merge, I think it unlikely we’d see a simultanious four-way merger/acquisition exercise at this time.
However you count it, I do think it reasonable to foresee that there is some imminent collapse about to occur within the yellow pages industry, and there will be fewer major players left on the field after. Dex and SuperMedia appear to me to be possibly moving towards one another, and AT&T may or may not be involved in some way. I think something else, separate, may be happening with Yellowbook, but we’ll have to wait and see.
In today’s post at Search Engine Land, I wrote an op-ed piece on how I believe there’s still opportunity for some major yellow pages companies. While Yell is apparently requiring belt-tightening of Yellowbook in the states, they have shown some fantastic innovation in their advanced development work in the UK — doing some stuff that I would expect Google Maps/Places will possibly rip-off in short order if it’s not properly bound up in patents and contractual agreements. In addition, Yellowbook was the first YP to rollout a group deals service in the US — the Weforia service. Hopefully Yellowbook’s cuts were primarily in the legacy print division where they should be, as opposed to chopping on the interactive side which comprises their hopes for future viability.