Yellow Pages – definition and meaning

The Yellow Pages is a business enterprise (business) telephone directory, which rather than having entries listed exclusively alphabetically, categorizes them (alphabetically within each category). For example, all shoe stores are listed in one section, auto mechanics in another, law firms in another, etc.

The yellow pages, originally printed on yellow paper, contrast with the alphabetically arranged white pages, which contain the phone numbers of non-business entities, i.e. individual persons.

In most countries of the world, the business directory is still printed on yellow paper, while the normal home telephone directory is printed on white paper. The Yellow Pages also exist online.

Henry Alexander, of New Bedford, MA., USA, designed the “Walking Fingers” logo in 1962. Within 12 months, it became the national trademark of the “Yellow Pages“. Mr. Alexander studied art at the Swain School of Design in New Bedford. He went on to become a successful freelance illustrator and commercial designer, and formed a 31-year association with the New England Telephone Company. (Image by Henry Alexander:

The the Cambridge dictionary has the following definition for the yellow pages:

“A telephone directory or part of a directory printed on yellow paper and containing telephone numbers and advertisements for businesses.”

Yellow Pages – brand status

In the United States, the name ‘Yellow Pages’ and the “The fingers that walk” The logo has never been registered as a trademark by AT&T and may be used freely by publishers.

In many other countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia, the name and logo are registered trademarks – they were introduced by AT&T during the Bell System era in the 1970s.

In the majority of countries, the Yellow Pages are owned by the main telephone company, or one of its subsidiaries or spin-offs.

The Yellow Pages in the worldBusiness directories around the world have one thing in common: they are either yellow or gold, and are commonly referred to as “Yellow Pages”, “Yellow Book”, “Gold Pages” or “Guest Book”. the language of the country.

Yellow Pages – brief history

As soon as Alexander Graham Bell got the first telephone working, its use quickly spread. In 1878, there were enough active telephones for a ‘central office’ and an employee to connect and disconnect callers.

The New Haven Telephone Company in Connecticut – the fastest new Bells – published a small phone book – consisting of a white card with the names of fifty subscribers. Subscribers have been divided into four categories: 1. Professional. 2. Residential. 3. Essential services. 4. Various. It was the first telephone directory ever published.

The first telephone directories only had the names of subscribers. They did not include their numbers because callers had to connect through the operator.

Reuben H. Donnelley, a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States, was working on a regular phone book when he ran out of white paper. So he used yellow paper instead. In 1886, Donnelley created the world’s first Yellow Pages directory.

In an article published by Frugal MarketingA brief history of the yellow pages – Mike McDaniel writes:

“It is estimated that there are now more than 2,300 independent yellow page directories produced by 250 publishers in the country; the largest independents are Yellow Book and TransWestern Publishing.

“In Los Angeles County alone, there are 135 phone books from different publishers and in multiple languages. The Yellow Pages industry represents more than $ 14 billion in annual advertising sales.

The term ‘Yellow Pages’ is used worldwide in English, Spanish, French and in most other languages. In some countries, including Romania, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Belgium, the Yellow Pages directory is called the Golden Pages (in the local language).

The directory is published (updated) annually and distributed free of charge to all businesses and residences in a coverage area.

Most of the listings are in small, plain text. Publishers generate profits by selling advertising space. The type of advertising available varies by publisher and country.

Ruben H Donnelley - First Yellow PagesMr. Donnelley, a printer, ran out of white paper and switched to yellow paper so that he could continue printing. (Image: adapted from

Yellow Pages Online

Online business directories are known as YP (Yellow Pages) or IYP (Internet Yellow Pages). In most advanced economies, there are two types: 1. A consumer-oriented directory. 2. A business-oriented directory.

Experian / Hitwise reported in 2011 that ‘Yellow Pages’ was among the top fifty most searched terms in Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

As with the print version, the online YP is popular with advertisers because visitors to the page are high quality leads. For example, law firms are likely to get good answers if they advertise in the ‘law firms’ category of the IYP.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Local Search Association published a study on the use of online search in June 2011. Its study of American consumers on how they find local businesses. 57% had used Internet yellow pages in the past year. 58% had used a newspaper, 74% a printed phone book and 76% a search engine.[citation needed] This indicates that buyers are using multiple sources to locate a local business.


Hibu, formerly Yell Group plc, based in Reading, England, is a multinational publisher of business directories. It publishes the Yellow Pages in the United Kingdom, the Yellow book in the United States, and Paginas Amarillas in Spain.

Globally, the company publishes nearly 900 directory editions, distributing more than 200 million copies per year. Its rapidly growing US unit has 790 editions, while in the UK 111 editions are published.

According to Reference for companies:

“The first UK telephone directories appeared shortly after the country’s first telephone exchanges were installed in London. At the end of 1880, the initial directory had more than 300 telephone numbers.

“In the United States, the development of telephone directories has led to the creation of ‘Yellow Pages’, ie directories specifically geared towards providing telephone numbers and addresses for businesses.

“According to legend, the first yellow pages appeared as early as 1886, when a directory printer ran out of white paper and replaced yellow paper instead.

Video – Yellow Pages

This Canadian video explains how the online business directory – YP – can help business businesses thrive.

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Calvin W. Soper

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