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French Version

This Yellow Pages is Red-Hot online

Pages Jaunes' innovative Web listings have made it No. 1 in France and a global pacesetter in the directory business.

Elisabeth and Jérôme van der Heyden have found a new recipe to lure clients to their Paris-based catering business, Gastronomia. Since early December, Gastronomia's listing in the French online yellow pages, or Pages Jaunes, includes an audio clip of Jérôme explaining the caterer's services. Potential clients who want to find out more can click from Pages Jaunes directly onto Gastronomia's Web site.

The van der Heydens spend hundreds of dollars a year for these added services, but Jérôme says the expense is well worth it because at least a quarter of the caterer's business is generated by its Pages Jaunes listing.

Audio ads are just one of the innovative services offered by Pages Jaunes, a unit of France Télécom's separately listed Internet company, Wanadoo. Want to dine out in Paris? Pages Jaunes will let you search a database of 9,000 eateries, sorted by location, price, and other criteria, such as whether a restaurant offers outdoor dining and live music. Need directions to a store? On Pages Jaunes, you can click on an interactive map. Some companies offer brief videos with their listings.

"CUSTOMER-LED." More is on the way. Starting in 2004, Pages Jaunes can take you on an electronic stroll through Paris, letting you view photos and information about businesses on any street you specify. Another service set for launch next year allows you to send an e-mail or instant message to a business by clicking on an icon on its Pages Jaunes listing. All these services are free to users.

Pages Jaunes is by far France's most popular online phone directory, with more than 6 million pages viewed every day, and has become a global pacesetter in the business. "We're customer-led," says Pages Jaunes chief Michel Datchary. It offers a broader range of services than most European directory outfits do, says Olivier Beauvillain, a Paris-based analyst for Internet consulting group Jupiter Research.

And while many U.S. online directories offer such added services as Web-site links and interactive maps, their geographic coverage is usually limited. Pages Jaunes, by contrast, covers every square centimeter of France.

DEFEATED RIVALS. Pages Jaunes is still a relatively small part of Wanadoo's business, accounting for less than 10% of the Internet service provider's $2.57 billion in revenues last year. But Wanadoo says Pages Jaunes revenues are up 57% this year as more businesses add cyber extras to their no-frills listings, which are free of charge. To add a Web link, a business must pay $185 to $560 a year, while an audio ad such as Gastronomia's costs $370 a year. Video costs $745 to $1,117, plus a one-time $390 production fee. Pages Jaunes also offers some features that customers must pay for, such as a reverse search where they plug in a phone number to look someone up.

Pages Jaunes' strong brand recognition in France -- it has the same name and logo as France Télécom's traditional phone book, now owned by Wanadoo -- has helped it trounce would-be competitors. Two French subsidiaries of Findexa, an electronic directory concern based in Norway, recently filed for bankruptcy after trying unsuccessfully to grab a piece of the French market. British online-directory group Scoot had no better luck when it started a joint venture with French media conglomerate Vivendi Universal (V ) in 1999 in hopes of breaking into France and other Continental markets. Scoot now has retreated back across the English Channel.

On the other hand, Pages Jaunes hasn't made much headway outside France, which accounts for 79% of its business. It has launched an online directory in Spain, called qdc.com, but remains a minor player in that market, which is dominated by the directory business of Spanish phone giant Telefónica. But there's still plenty of room for growth in France. According to audience-measurement group Nielsen/NetRatings, more than 60% of French Net surfers still haven't used the electronic Pages Jaunes. That's sure to whet the appetites of hungry businesses such as Gastronomia.

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