Sensis Changing Tactics Again

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In a never say die attitude Sensis are changing their online strategy again. Late last year they virtually abandoned their site and made it a simple doorway site to Domain’s data but now they want to change to an auction system and take on the mighty ebay.

Sensis bought in 2004 for a massive $636 million dollars and the business has been sliding back on them since then.

Some pretty big claims have been coming out of Sensis lately, including one that states “2 million people” already use each month. Sensis were trying to hold this up against ebay’s 5 million account holders to show that they might gain traction in online auctions.

Now that has to be PR spin plain and simple. After reading this I quickly surveyed the next 20 people I met and not one person had visited within the past several months and most have never visited it at all.

Maybe they had 2 million visits, but I doubt they had 2 million visitors. Could you imagine how many visits would have every single month to compare this against.

Fanciful claims coming out Sensis staff is nothing new though. In the past we have seen claims from a self confessed rank and file Sensis employee (that seemed like a PR person incognito) that Sensis was responsible for generating $61 billion of sales from just the Metro editions of the Yellow Pages. When challenged he offered some Doctor as proof of the figures hoping that might impress.. and then when challenged again admitted that he remembered it off some powerpoint slide he seen once and that meant of course that there was no proof, not one single shred of evidence to his claim.


Of course that was a little hard to prove considering it represented nearly 10% of Australia’s GDP and thus meant $1 in every $10 spent in Australia was meant to have been generated through just a handful of Yellow Pages editions around Australia.

Sensis have released recently that they are working on an iPhone search application which is interesting as its parent company, Telsta has not confirmed it will even be handling the iPhone when it comes here, unlike Vodaphone and Optus who have both shouted out loud about their involvement.

Sensis was going to set the search world on fire but their attempt was just laughable. Google delivered us just a touch over 63,000 visits over the past 12 months. In that same time delivered… wait for it… 8.

Lets not forget the… that was actually responsible for another 8 visits. I get far more traffic in a week from people clicking on my name on this blog than I get from Sensis in a year.

Sensis have never impressed online and I cant see them turning it around and now they expect us to believe that they are to tackle the online auction space. Whats Next..? Maybe they might try and follow impessive example and take on real estate classifieds. Better watch out REA, their online pedigree is impressive!

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  • Karl Morris
    Posted May 31, 2008 at 10:16 am 0Likes

    Interesting read indeed.

    I spent almost 5 years at Sensis and lef their towards the end of 2005. A this stage they were predicting growth in print directories but declining growth over a 6 year period at which stage they would go backwards. Fast forward two years and they went backwards in print in the 2007 financial year and will probably do the same again this financial year.

    They now bundle their online directory results with their print results in a vain attempt to hide this glaring internal issue from the outside world. Sensis were scared of Google then and are more scared now.

    Their online “paid inclusion” directory business model is a very short term stop gap because as soon as every small business realises that once you have a website that is is built properly search engines are free and if you want to pay for exposure online it is on a performance basis. Not the ‘paid inclusion’ Yellow Pages Online Directory business model.

    It’s any wonder that i have started my own business building affordable websites for small businesses that work. (eg. make their phones ring) And can’t find enough time in the day to keep up with demand

    Karl Morris
    Managing Director
    Success Metrics

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted May 31, 2008 at 11:17 am 0Likes

    I think their (Sensis) biggest problem is they think they have a given right to our marketing monies.

    The model for just about everything is completely out of sync with the market today.

    Yellow Pages online is simply terrible, White Pages Online is ok, The Sensis Search engine is completely finished, Trading Post is slow and awful to use and as for the print directories, well they have all run their race.

    The new age is opening up and sharing, not protecting and the Sensis beast is becoming toothless.

    I can find no reason why an agent would want to pay for anything on any of these platforms!

    And that is a big big problem for Sensis going forward.

    Great to hear from you Karl and look forward to more valuable input from you.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted May 31, 2008 at 12:02 pm 0Likes

    I spoke with an agent the other day who reluctantly spent over $10,000 with Yellow pages. To get the deal through to prove how effective the advertising would were silly enough to offer them a dedicated phone number to track the results.

    Needless to say after only a couple of calls for the whole year he laughed at them when they contacted him for renewal.

  • Peter Lindsay
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 2:18 pm 0Likes

    It was interesting to read all the comments around Sensis, Trading Post, Google etc. One key observation I have is that in the online auction area eBay is showing complete contempt for it’s Australian users.

    I ma a heavy eBay ‘Gold Seller’ who is absolutely annoyed with eBay and its traetment of Australian users. I decided to test the Trading Post and to my surprise and ultimate delight I was able to secure a few sales at a higher average price and materially lower cost. Thus I will not actively be using the Trading Post and hope they continue to innovate!

    On a passing observation around the blog from Karl Morris – I trust he does not take the same loose attitude to confidential information as he outlined in his blog in his new business. I would hate to be a past client based on this blog around commercial information. I suspect this was an innocent mistake.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 5:41 pm 0Likes

    Good post, Glenn.

    I do occasionally use the whitepages online and find them useful.

    As for the yellow pages, I have to admit that after I see a stack of them sitting in the entrance way of my apartment building for a few weeks, I often help them find their way to the recycling bin…


  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 5:42 pm 0Likes

    Peter Lindsay..

    “Thus I will not actively be using the Trading Post and hope they continue to innovate!”

    I trust that was suppose to read, “Thus I will be actively using…” etc etc

    I cant say I know exactly what level a “Gold Seller” on ebay is, but I reckon it is a lot more than a few sales you have achieved on Trading Post.

    I suspect that Trading Post will only ever be an additional small revenue stream for you and it will never replace ebay. I am prepared to be wrong, and in time we will both know, but for now Sensis just don’t have the track record online for me to have faith in them.

    Your comments on Karl and his attitude to confidential information are interesting though. I could not find a blog as such on his site so I am assuming that your referring to his comments regarding declining growth and all that stuff in the first comment on this post. Sensis is the advertising and directories arm of Telstra Corporation which is a public company. All that is public information as is Sol Trujillo’s statement in 2005 that Sensis would be $3 billion revenue machine by 2011. It’s just three years on but this would require more than double its current turnover in the next three years even though their report card has them slipping back. If your meaning something different could you give us a link.

    There is a lot riding on their 18month investment in adding online auctions to their site and I reckon they appreciate your few sales. Another option in the market place would be good, its just that Sensis would have to break current form to do it. Lets say they are a 200:1 longshot.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 5:53 pm 0Likes


    If you are looking to find a phone number for a business these days, what resources would you use and in what order would you use them. Not a website, not product information, not physical address or anything else… just a phone number to call them on.

    Here is mine:

    Google Online Search
    Yahoo Online Search
    Whitepages Online Search
    Yellow Pages Online Search
    (no hard copy versions included because we dont have them.. binned them the day they were delivered)
    Phone Providers Directly Assistance

    and thats were they lost the plot IMHO.

    They are a company that end of the day specializes in delivering phone numbers to people who want them and they are not even in the top 2 points of call when looking for a phone number.

    Instead of making the experience better so people used it first, they concentrated as having it as an addon to their print edition sales to justify the huge investment required. They lost the plot and technology has moved so far ahead of them and now the are scrambling to catch up.

  • Karen
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm 0Likes

    I work for Sensis and wanted to make a few points.

    Trading Post has been growing strongly (2 million is an accurate figure for visitors to the site) and there is a significant opportunity for more growth which is why we are venturing into auctions. Sensis has not changed tactics, this is a natural progression for the site and fits well with our strategy of helping Australians find buy and sell.

    Yellow Directory does not think it has a

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 10:29 pm 0Likes


    Thanks for posting and I hope you can take the time to clear up some of the matters you raised.

    I appreciate you advising that you work for Sensis but just so we all understand, you are Karen from Sensis Corporate Affairs, not an office manager, ad exec, office assistant or other rank and file?

    You claim that online auctions is a natural progression. I dont understand how you can suggest that. Do you know of any other directory companies and yellow pages around the world that have evolved into online auctions? Do you know any other telcommunications companies that own an online auction site? What things about other online auction companies do you find similar to Sensis that you feel makes this is a natural progression?

    2 million visits is not 2 million visitors which is not even 2 million unique visitors and that is certainly not 2 million Australian sites. Each one is unique and different metric and marketing departments often toss them around without understanding even what they are let alone the differences.

    Also, if you are talking unique visitors, are they unique for the month, or are the simply daily uniques added together?

    Just 20,000 people visiting 2 times a day every day for the month will rack up 2,000,000 visits.

    67,000 people visiting every day will rack up 2,000,000 unique visitors if daily uniques are added together like is often done by marketing departments.

    20,000 or 67,000 is hardly the same as 5 million subscribed and active accounts now is it?

    So which column are you suggesting your 2 million belongs to. Your media release stated 2 million Australians, your post said 2 million visitors and some news articles claim its 2 million unique visitors for March. I reckon it would be hard pushed to go much futher than 2 million visits.

    Yellow Pages is in the top 20 for Google Searches…!!! Google is your friend?!.. Your just name dropping now… πŸ™‚

    I just cant understand what you mean by this. In the words of Pauline Hanson, “Please Explain”. There are an endless number of search terms, billions and billions, and yes I am sure sensis, white pages and yellow pages will rank for some of them.

    Of course one thing you will find lots of on Google is Sensis paid ads. Is that what you mean? Google is giving you lots of traffic?

    But search on real estate as an example and combine it with a geographic area like the gold coast and I cant find a sensis website in the top 100 let alone the top 20. Have you just a few examples?

    As to your “mid single digit growth?.. Was that growth in pages sold, individual ad numbers or revenue or something else entirely.

    Will Sensis make its $3billion turnover target that Sol has announced with this mid single digit growth?

    Your right about one comparing phone calls and web traffic. They are different but even so, do you really suggest that one site that delivers 63,000 visitors is even in the same league as another who delivers just 16? Even if you do provide a few calls here and there the overall exposure using any measurement is chalk and cheese. Turn both off and with only the opportunity to turn one back on, do you really think Sensis would even get a second thought calls or no calls?

    and lastly, seeing as though you are no rank and file like another Sensis employee once on here in my research on this story I came across the name of Dr
    Dennis R. Fromholzer who is the same one offered up once before as though his name would naturally be accepted as a credible source.

    Now I thought this guy was going to be a marketing expert covering all facets of marketing. It turns out he only does work for the Yellow Pages industry through his company CRM Associates doesnt he? He is the expert rolled out by all Yellow Pages companies around the world.

    In fact any Yellow Pages company can subscribe to his service to get “good news” articles and research to show Yellow Pages in a good light. In fact a quick browse of his reports on and every single one is a positive review. Convenient ?! Sort of like the tobacco company doctors always said nicotine was not addictive or harmful in any way sort of convenient.

    Besides somebody whose income is totally reliant on consulting fees and subscriptions to his publication with Yellow Pages companies, do you have any independent expert saying the same things positive upbeat things about Yellow Pages advertising.

    I also found your mid single digit growth in this post
    which interesting quotes for the few months when you are up 4.9% which is up from a loss for the whole of 2007 of -2.8%

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 10:00 am 0Likes

    Karen, nice to hear from you. I am pretty hard on Yellow and White Pages and I think I have good reason.

    For me it is all about value for money for agents advertising and nothing that has been said here can alleviate the big problems you face in the future.

    It just costs way too much for agents to advertise where the majority of their target audience is not going.

    As for the directories, year after year they just sit outside our complex and end up in recycling bins.

    The last lot, only 2 apartments out of 14 took them in and the rest got thrown.

    I can still see some markets for this directory but the options are now too great and the cost per lead too significant.

    The advertising campaigns warning us that our business could go under if we are not with these directories carries no weight in most industries today, particularly real estate.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 11:02 am 0Likes


    Something that only just twigged. I dug up that quote of your bosses saying 2007 representing a loss of -2.8%.

    Now you are claiming for the first half of the 07/08 financial year ear we had mid single digit growth.

    But those dates overlap. The first half of the financial year is the last half of the calendar year.

    So you would have us believe that for the period 01/01/07 to 31/12/07 you had a loss of -2.8%

    But for the last 6 months (01/07/07 to 31/12/07) you increased it by say 4% (mid single digits). I am no mathematician but for those numbers to work out you would have had to have been in the hole for -7% for the first half of 2007. In fact if your mid single digit growth was higher than 4%, then your first half of 2007 loss was also larger.

    Is this rollercoaster ride what you suggested happened?

    The best quote from your GM in April this years was that “customer satisfaction and value for the money are both up 12 percent, and employee satisfaction is +8 percent over last year.”

    I would also love to hear your opinion on the study released by AustraliaSCAN in April which showed that Google has become a more effective brand than Yellow Pages for the first time.

    This is reflected in the survey results that show more than 50 per cent of people now use the internet most days, while just over 40 per cent use the Yellow Pages monthly.

  • snoop
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm 0Likes

    Nett of it is you cant run a media company like a phone company.

  • Karen
    Posted June 5, 2008 at 4:56 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Glenn for your interest. Below are some points on some of the questions you raised in your post.

    Re: natural progression –
    Sensis is a unique business, with interests in directories, mapping, classifieds, display advertising and voice services to name a few. As such, we set our own strategy and business models and have a proven track record of growth .

    Re: 2 million visits
    We share your frustration with the way online metrics are reported across the industry. However for Sensis and Trading Post, there is no conspiracy. Two million unique visitors go to each month.


  • Craig Pontey
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 10:02 pm 0Likes

    Sensis,,,,a sleeping giant but unfortunately misguided and misdirected when it comes to the Real estate industry.

    Have they asked for help and assistance from our industry…not that I am aware of

    Both REA and Domain are after our help and work with our businesses to develop what we want, need and will pay for….

    and what of

    Its going to get interesting……and fun

    Regards to all Craig Pontey Ray White Double Bay Group

  • snoop
    Posted June 13, 2008 at 11:39 am 0Likes

    I think they have got themselves over excited about the success in the real estate sector of tradme in nz
    I dont think the market dynamic is the same in aus

  • Old Timer
    Posted June 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm 0Likes

    Re. Sensis
    It’s a cultural thing that starts at the top.

    If we can side-step the shocking waste of share-holders money as the once house-hold names across all age groups (Whitepages & Yellowpages) has disappeared to just us old timers (imagine such brands having to be Googled!), Sensis needs creativity. And it ain’t gonna get it from the top.

    If it were to come from the top, it would need to be from people like the well-meaning but very dull head of Classifieds (Trading Post covers this broad area) who was formerly head of Strategy, the now head of Strategy who is a cold, newly corporatized (female – wince) ladder-climber, or knarly old Sol who must be readying for his golden handshake with the amount of time he spends dining with ‘mates’ back home in the US of A. It’s certainly not gonna come from Brucey A (Sensis Boss) who is still just a step away from his previous lawyer’s role as group Counsel on secondment from Mallesons! (Hasn’t he done well for a boring tit!). Next you’ll be telling me a farmer should be Chairman of the whole Telstra megolith – What? He is?! That’s right! Johnny Howard gave him the nod for fighting the unions on the docks, didn’t he. So, what do you expect from Telstra/Sensis – C’mon!
    Karen (from Corp Affairs above), has to show more creativity than any of this mob to keep the company line flowing while the Oz operation sinks like Sol’s previous gig @ T West in the US. (Pity she actually believes what she is saying – who would lie about actually liking and respecting her boss, ‘fatboy Phil'(Burgess)).

    So guys, feedback and input from r.e. agents would assist and show Telstra/Sensis/Trading Post has some interest in the real estate segment but guess what, the people that matter really don’t have a real interest in anything except themselves so don’t beat yourselves up over it. Sol understands all this. He knows the Oz operation is on a hiding to nothing so has turned the place into an investment house looking for investments OS otherwise his bonuses won’t be as rich as possible – altho, don’t forget his options were structured at a buy price set at the record low after he had been in the job many months!

    Now, what was I doing? This Alzheimers is a bitch! Can’t remember a thing πŸ™‚

  • Another Old Timer
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm 0Likes

    In regards to Dr Dennis Fromholzer – I think if you look a little deeper you will also find he was once the CEO of a Yellow Pages business in the states (there are a few Yellow Pages businesses over there). So that makes his “research” even more suspect. As for his powerpoint displays, I’ve seen them as a sales rep from Sensis once showed them to me as “proof” that the book was going to make me money. Also as for the “metered ad program” I got a very crappy response from my advert – Sensis turned up all excited with the results, because they claimed I was getting heaps of calls. Unfortunately for them, most of the calls I received were from telemarketers trying to sell me phone systems! It was a load of crap and I pulled all my spend with Yellow Pages right then and there. But they keep harrassing me to go back into the book, even now two years later!

    Also, regarding “Peter Lindsay’s” post above – he sounds suspiciously like an undercover Sensis employee to me – especially since he seems to be alluding to “Karl Morris” as breaching some kind of confidentiality as a former employee of Sensis. I say goodonya Karl, and down with Sensis, with Karen, and all the rest!

  • PaulD
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm 0Likes

    Yellow Pages time again. Well I wouldn’t remember anymore, because we pulled out two years ago, and according to the Sensis Guy, that was a major mistake that we would regret. All it did was save money, that and the VoIP phones. My communication costs have now dropped out of the top 5 of my fixed costs. The yellow pages advertising (by volume) has dropped by 6% and 7% respectively over the last 2 years. YP obviously have to charge more and more to make up the losses in numbers. I wonder how much the last guy in the book will be paying. I suppose he will at least get all the calls πŸ™‚

  • Mac
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 3:50 am 0Likes

    Look what I found! is a petition to stop the hugely wasteful delivery of Yellow Pages so only those who have agreed get them! And so say all of us!
    (Where is Peter Garrett when you really need him! Betta dump those shares in forests! *L*)

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm 0Likes

    I think market forces will make this a natural evolution πŸ™‚

  • Mac
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 1:15 am 0Likes

    I don’t agree Peter. The Yellow Pages story is based upon the misrepresentation to advertisers of its huge distribution that in reality only has a fraction of usage. Meanwhile, there is massive wastage/pollution/destruction of forests to prop-up this deception that should not be allowed in 2010.

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