The yellow pages cling to the digital age

Le Perigord is one of the city’s many elegant and old-fashioned French restaurants. The menu is traditional. The decor is classic. But there is one aspect where it’s quite unique: It’s the only restaurant that still advertises in the restaurant section of Manhattan’s yellow pages.

“I don’t think it helps us much, to be honest with you,” manager Christopher Briguet said.

Yes, Virginia, there is still a New York Yellow Pages. And although many people have gone years without deciphering a printed directory to find a plumber, it is still a viable business.

According to the Local Search Association — formerly known as the Yellow Pages Association — print business telephone directories are a $ 3 billion industry; 40% of Americans see one at least once a year. While usage is highest in rural areas, 13% of New Yorkers consult the book at least once a week.

“It’s profitable, absolutely,” says LSA president Neg Norton.

And shrinking. Hibu Inc., publisher of the Yellowbook directories, recently discontinued its Brooklyn and Manhattan editions; only Staten Island and Queens remain.

Dex Media,

which publishes the Verizon directories, still prints books for the five boroughs, but recently discontinued its Spanish and neighborhood editions.

Income is falling every year. “Let’s say 15 years ago the Manhattan directory was a $ 100 million product, today it’s less than $ 10 million,” says John Gregory, vice president, directories and pricing.

And the pounds have shrunk considerably. Most retail advertising has moved online, leaving the yellow pages primarily with ads from service providers such as electricians, accident attorneys, and pest control specialists.

“It used to be very popular with escort services and hotels,” says Gregory, “but it all started on the Internet.”

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Rates have also fallen. A full-page Manhattan directory ad that cost $ 7,000 a month in the 1990s, to give a rough example, could cost $ 700 a month now, says Gregory.

Print directory publishers have survived, if not thrived – Dex recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – by offering new services to small businesses. They bundle ads in printed directories with online listings and digital marketing services.

But the company remains remarkably old-school. Dex employs an army of 30 New York vendors who are pounding the curb, selling small business marketing services.

Its distributors, meanwhile, are still trying to deliver the book to every New York address by hand, surveying top apartment buildings on demand to prevent directories from ending up in the recycling bin. The mail-in mini-Manhattan directory will soon be phased out in favor of the classic 8-by-11-inch edition.

So why advertise in the Yellow Pages? I spoke to the only bookseller left and the only pizzeria that still advertised in the Manhattan edition. Both said they plan to cancel their announcement.

“We get maybe 10 calls a year, and they’re mostly older people, says Candace Reilly, office manager at James Cummins Bookseller, a rare book dealer on Madison Avenue. “We are going digital more. “

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Nicole McCullum, a New York-based small business marketing consultant, says she wouldn’t recommend a Yellow Pages ad to her clients. “With Google, you can spend the same amount of money and get a much higher return on your investment,” she says.

But followers say when it comes to targeting older customers or consumers willing to spend on a service, nothing beats the printed directory.

One of the largest yellow page advertisers in the region is EPIC Security, a 2,000-employee company based on the Upper West Side. The company purchases the back cover of the Verizon directory for each borough and has several color ads inside each, typically featuring a giant security guard overlooking various cityscapes.

President and CEO Mark Lerner says a lot of people, even his son, tease him for advertising in the printed directory. It doesn’t bother him. He knows that means they saw the ad.

“I’m one of the last guys to still love the Yellow Pages,” he says.

Dr Lerner, PhD. in criminology, also advertises on Google search and local trade publications, but phone book ads still account for half of its six-figure marketing budget; it’s a low-key way to generate leads. “It generates a lot of calls,” he says.

He also prefers the Yellow Pages for his own use. Any makeshift home appliance repairer can lose a few dollars on a Google ad, he explains. An outfit that can afford an ad in the yellow pages is more likely to be established and reliable.

“There is a lot of nonsense on the Internet,” he says.

The big question, of course, is how long New Yorkers will still receive Yellow Pages. Some say that as long as there is an audience, the repertoire will come.

“It’s going to be there for the foreseeable future,” predicts Mr. Norton. “People who are 55 and over will be there for a long time.”

Write to Anne Kadet at [email protected]

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Calvin W. Soper