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hibu trials emarketplaces in Oxford and Chicago as it continues to switch focus to digital

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Yellow Pages business Hibu is trialling eMarketplaces in Oxford and Chicago as part of its strategy to move from a print and online directories business to a digital business.

The marketplace trials, at and, highlight products and services from local traders, and are expected to be followed by the launch of more local marketplaces during this financial year.

New initiatives from the company, which is aiming to forge new strengths in digital products at a time when directories revenues are falling, include digital export service Open to Export, launched with UK Trade and Investment. hibu has also launched a series of local community magazines in the US as it looks to extend the life of its directories business. It says this move has been “very successful” and it is now trialling the product in the UK and Spain.

The company also runs websites for small businesses and says it has now built 347,000 websites.

Hibu’s digital services revenues has grown fast, by 38.3% in the half-year to £81.9m, primarily from online search and the websites that it powers. Digital revenue now accounts for 33% of the company’s total income. New product trials have yet to make a significant contribution to revenues, however.

But the company, previously called the Yell Group, is still seeing a sharp decline in its print and digital directory revenues, which is hitting profits. Today the company unveiled its results for the first half of its financial year, showing that in the six months to September 30, hibu’s group revenues fell by 15% to £660m, compared to the same time last year. It chalked up pre-tax tax profits of £7m, down by £62m on the same time last year.

Mike Pocock, hibu chief executive officer, said: “During the first half, the group has continued to make significant progress on its four year strategy to build a material new digital business.

“In June we acquired Moonfruit, an innovative digital company, in order to provide new web site products early next year. Following successful pilots in the US, we began to expand our community magazine (formerly Newsletter) initiative, which is now delivering new orders in excess of £500k per week and rising. We signed partnership agreements with Vantiv in the US and Global Payments in the UK, to support our new Payments product which went to pilot in both markets in early September.

“We also moved into pilot with our new online channel, which will provide a modern, lower cost alternative route to market for our products from early 2013 and we began the first pilots of eMarketplace in Oxford and Chicago.

“We have also been working hard to sustain our directories business in the face of very difficult market trends that have not improved.”

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