The days of the white pages may be numbered, but the yellow pages face a diverse future (poll)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The last time John Briggs used the bulky phone book was about 10 years ago.

For millions of people like Briggs, the printed phone book – first published in 1878 – is an unwanted museum relic that piles up on your porch or on a house shelf until the pile is gone. discarded or taken to a recycling bin.

Instead of letting their fingers walk, more and more consumers are turning to the internet, cell phones and iPads to find local restaurants, plumbers, dentists and other businesses. So much so that over the past five years, the number of copies of the phone book has grown from 600 million to 425 million, according to industry reports.

“I try to catch the delivery guys before they put it (phone book) on our door because I know I don’t use it as a reference,” said Briggs, a Tremont resident and vice president. marketing at Blue Star Design in Cleveland.


But don’t be too quick to overlook the old-fashioned phone book, especially the commercial yellow pages, a $ 9 billion industry in 2011.

“For some local advertisers, it is (the Yellow Pages) the most powerful advertising source for generating high value-added leads,” said David Wolf, managing partner and co-owner of Linkmedia 360, an agency of Independence which, among other things, sells advertising for printing. and yellow pages online.

“Consumers who use Yellow Pages directories are certainly buying a product or service because there is no entertainment value in viewing the directory. “

Those who use the yellow pages are typically over 45, have above-average family incomes, live in more rural communities and do not have internet access, according to global research firm Burke Inc.

In a Burke survey of 8,000 people nationwide released last year, 74% of U.S. consumers said they had used printed yellow pages in the past year to find a local business. This is 17 percent more than those who have used the Internet yellow pages. And while residential white pages aren’t used as much, 63 percent said they’ve used these pages in the past year.

Dan and Diane Palmer of University Heights welcome the printed telephone directory. They keep the books by the phone in their kitchen. He was frustrated with online searches that brought up sites touting various ads and stuff until he came across, which made it easier to find. However, telephone directories are not far off.

Don’t want phone books?

“I use the white pages more than the yellow pages these days,” said Dan, professor of computer science at John Carroll University.

Depending on the region of the country in which you live, a person may receive from one to seven phone books in a year.

Today’s major yellow page publishers, including AT&T which claims 63% of the Northeast Ohio market, small independent businesses, and advertising agencies, all have competitors who may offer options. more targeted and affordable searches such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp.

Yellow page publishers are also being pushed by consumers to offer services that include bundling print with online offerings.

As people give up their home numbers and their cell phones replace landlines, “it’s a very practical problem,” said Neg Norton, president of the Local Search Association, formerly the association’s business organization. of the Yellow Pages. “It’s (the phone book) another cost to phone companies. And it’s something you don’t need to do from an environmental standpoint.”

National regulators have granted telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T permission to stop printing phone books in certain markets. While yellow pages can come from many sources – telephone companies, marketers, independent publishers, among others – telephone companies have a regulatory obligation to print residential white pages.

Linkmediasign.jpgBetty Brown and Dave Wolf, co-owners of Linkmedia 360 in Independence, recently changed the company name to National Yellow Pages Media LCC and expanded its services to reflect growing changes in the phone book industry. With the increased use of the Internet to locate businesses, interest in the white pages of the telephone book has almost entirely dropped and the yellow pages have lost a large share of the market.

San Francisco issued an order banning the distribution of telephone directories except to customers who are at home to physically accept them or give their prior consent by phone, mail or post-it left on the door. Meanwhile, last June, the directory industry trade group sued the city of San Francisco and the county for singling out an industry’s right to free speech.

So far, about 20 state utility boards, including Ohio, have approved white pages on an opt-in basis, according to the Local Search Association, which promotes page opt-out. home of the Commercial Industry Group website. In these markets, those who wish can either request a CD-ROM or a printed telephone directory.

In Ohio, the next opt-out date is April 4.

“We want to provide phone books to people who intend to use them, so we’re trying to be a lot smarter about who we deliver the phone books to,” Norton said.

Kip Cassino, executive vice president of Borrell Associates Inc., a Williamsburg, Va. Consultancy that examines local media spending nationwide, said fewer people used their yellow pages directory every year. on a monthly basis.

“Let’s be clear, we’re not saying the Yellow Pages are dead,” Cassino said. “But we are saying that they are losing a significant portion of their previous market.”

Internet yellow pages are a growing component of the advertising market, with expected spending of nearly $ 460 million by 2015, the BIA / Kelsey market research said.

Linkmedia in Independence knows how difficult it is to maintain interest in the printed yellow pages.

“Because so many people are anti-yellow pages, we recognized that our focus needed to be complemented by other media opportunities such as pay-per-view, online search marketing and social media services,” said Betty Brown, president and co-owner. the company.

Wolf of Linkmedia said potential customers are starting to lose interest in mentioning the yellow pages.

“The business is very fluid. It has changed more in the past 12 months than in the past four years,” he said. “I have a lot of sleepless nights.”

Calvin W. Soper

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