Yellow Pages and Local Mobile Search

US yellow pages publisher RH Donnelley just launched its "DexKnows" set of mobile sites/apps. That now completes the quartet of major US publishers with mobile sites and applications: Yellowpages.com, Idearc (with a new iPhone app coming) and Yellowbook. In particular AT&T's YPMobile application has been quite popular and successful as an iPhone app. 

In Europe, MobilePeople has been building mobile apps and sites for YP publishers for several years. Now, in the US, mobile is no longer a novelty or "nice to have." It's a critical part of an overall traffic and brand strategy. As print usage in major metro markets continues to decline and the consumer market fragments even further, mobile is another piece of the traffic puzzle.

However the challenge for these publishers is to really do mobile in a way that makes it an asset rather than simply a bunch of listings distributed on a mobile handset. There are plenty of mobile apps and sites that provide local listings data. Arguably the mobile market is more competitive in this way than online.

One way in which the DexKnows iPhone app does something different on its iPhone app is by employing an Urbanspoon-like spinner/slot machine feature under a category called "Feelin' like." It provides restaurant listings by "genre" and location. That same tool also works with travel related services (e.g., lodging) and attractions (e.g., museums).

YP Mobile has included events (from Zvents), which stretches beyond the online product.  

For most YP publishers, mobile will be a "defensive" strategy to avoid losing users as they shift to mobile, rather than a way to gain new users. Yet unimaginative apps or sites will fail to serve even this function. Mobile is similar to online in many respects. But there are also important differences and publishers should be sensitive to those differences accordingly. For example the categories of usage in mobile are going to be different (at least in the near term) from those in the print directory or online. The "feelin' like" functionality on the Dex iPhone app recognizes this. 

Dex also offers 1-800-Call-Dex, which is a free-DA service.

The question remains in my mind: Are YP publishers "culturally" up to the task of creating compelling mobile applications and experiences (which might include verticals or specialized apps) vs. simply reproducing their directories on the handset.