Baby Bell drops connection with 'The One Book'

November 08, 1991|By Leslie Cauley

Southwestern Bell has severed its relationship with "The One Book," the yellow pages directory distributed in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia.

Julia Kearney, a spokeswoman for St. Louis-based Southwestern Bell, said yesterday that the regional phone company has not been associated with The One Book since Oct. 24.

Southwestern Bell sold its interests in the directory to Donnelley Directory, its partner in Venture One, publisher of the book, she said.

Ms. Kearney said that Southwestern Bell decided to withdraw from the project because it "no longer fit with our long-term objectives." She declined to elaborate. "It's a business decision that we consider private."

Representatives of Donnelley, a division of Dun & Bradstreet Corp., could not be reached for comment.

Venture One was formed in 1988 to publish The One Book, which made its debut in 1989. About 2 million books are currently distributed.

It is not clear what impact the withdrawal of Southwestern Bell from The One Book will have on the long-term marketing strategy of Donnelley, which had regarded its association with the regional Bell to be a strong selling point with advertisers.

Since its debut, The One Book has had problems competing against Bell Atlantic Corp., the entrenched incumbent in the regional yellow pages market.

Bell Atlantic, the parent of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., publishes phone directories for each of the markets it serves. C&P distributes more than 2 million directories in Maryland.

C&P has been a formidable competitor for Venture One.

In Maryland, publishers of The One Book complained to the Public Service Commission that C&P was trying to drive it out of business by withholding names and addresses of customers and by being sluggish in providing updates to existing listings. C&P denied the claim, which was eventually settled.

Even with the backing of Southwestern Bell, Venture One had experienced some difficulties in penetrating the local markets and wooing advertisers.

Venture One began offering the "Talking Yellow Pages" about a year ago to distinguish its books from those of C&P. The books featured ads with codes that readers could call for information on advertisers.

Venture One said its "Talking Yellow Pages" were a hit with advertisers, but it wasn't clear how well readers responded.

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