It wasn't that long ago when the phone book ruled the search business.
And even more recently many telcos thought they saw an online future in their directories.
One of these was Australian telecom giant Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), which was so ambitious that it rolled up other classified ad firms into its Sensis directories unit. At its peak a decade ago Sensis was worth 15 billion Australian dollars (US$11.7 billion).
Now, Telstra is negotiating to sell off the last piece of the business, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported. It offloaded 70% of Sensis last year for A$454 million (£354 million).
The remaining business, classified ads site Trading Post, may fetch as little as A$10 million ($7.8 million). Telstra bought the title for A$636 million ($495 million) in 2004.
The reason for the 95% collapse in value is no mystery, of course: Google, eBay, Craigslist, Facebook and the dozens of other ways humans now have of connecting with what they need. Telstra's tale is a reminder of how much value the old directories monopolies have lost.
But it hasn't all been downside for the Australian telco. At around the same time it was tipping cash into domestic ad companies, Telstra was also picking up some Chinese consumer websites. (See Telstra Cuts Chinese Firms.)
It sold out of one of them, real estate website Soufun, in 2010 for a handy $190 million profit -- a 70% gain.
And its purchase of 71% of Autohome for A$200 million ($156 million) became a windfall when the auto site debuted 14 months ago. It is now worth $3.9 billion.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading