Even on "iPod Day", Microsoft Muscles In...
Independent Booksellers, Unite!

When Will The Yellow Pages Die?!

Yellow_pages_stackIt's that time of the year again.  Time for someone to drive through my neighborhood dropping off the new Yellow Pages.  It seems like such a waste of paper, gas, time and money in general.  I think I've used my copy of The Yellow Pages about 3 times in the past year.  Honestly, the copy I put in the recycling bin looked like it had never been used!

Yeah, I know there are a lot of other people out there who don't trust online search results and still lean on this yellow relic, but how long will that last?  The answer largely depends on how long doctors, attorneys, exterminators and other businesses will continue to waste their money on overvalued Yellow Pages ads.

If you're a dentist or chiropractor looking to draw in new patients, are you more interested in a Yellow Pages ad or a Google one?  Yesterday's money was on the former, but tomorrow's money better be on the latter.  I've tried to explain this to a couple of medical specialist friends over the past 12 months but no dice.  They're way too committed to the Yellow Pages.

Here's a dentist that gets it.  Dr. Helaine Smith recently launched a blog where she features podcasts about "successful smiles."  (I found out about her thanks to David Meerman Scott's WebInkNow blog, btw.)  I exchanged some e-mail with Dr. Smith last week and realized immediately that she's very progressive and understands the benefits of technology.  In addition to the blog, her office also has one of the nicer dental websites I've seen.

Those sales reps for the various Yellow Pages across the country must be good at what they do.  After all, they continue selling ad space that's worth less and less every year.  It also seems like a very odd model to me.  Their "customer base" always remains steady since everyone gets a copy of the Yellow Pages.  Do any of these paying advertisers ever hold The Yellow Pages accountable for results though?  Is there a Google Analytics equivalent in the Yellow Pages offline/print world?  If so, it's got to be showing ugly, declining results.



It's just a matter of time before everyone realizes that the Yellow Pages in book-form is obsolete. Some of the older generation are still in denial over the internet's power and predominance in our world (e.g. my mom), but we're shifting. Heck, the Catholic Church officially stated decades ago that Mary Magdalene was never a prostitute as they had been claiming for centuries. We still are making movies and documentaries that live in the past. C'est la vie.

Teresa Duncan

When the YP reps come around our offices, we are amazed at the hard sell they give us. With more people finding us online, you would think that YP would lower the prices or offer to help with more ad design. They have to see the writing on the wall.

Nice blog, BTW!

Dianna Huff

Joe, In my neighborhood, I see yellow page books sitting for days (and weeks) by the side of the road where they get dropped off. I keep one book for our town. I think I consult it only a few times a year -- and that's to find pizza joints that deliver. Other than that, I use Google for everything else.

Michael Miller

I haven't used a physical yellow pages directory in years. I throw mine away the day I get it. (Just got mine last week, too.) But it's obviously still a big money maker, selling all those ads. Do companies still draw business from these ads? Or do they subscribe out of fear of not subscribing?


I have a few Yellow Books to drop off at the neighborhood recycling bin. I do keep one on hand just in case. I have even kept one in the car. I will admit that I do google more and more to get information, addresses, etc. for businesses, schools, etc.

David Mayhew

Sharon has a point. While I use my YP at home less than Joe's 3/year estimate, I've always kept one in my car for emergencies. Maybe the YP ad sales rep should take a look at how consumers are using them, refocus their efforts on towing services, drive-thru pizza joints and 24-hour MedChecks, and convince the publisher to print a glovebox-sized format.

Joe Wikert

Hey, you people with a copy of the Yellow Pages in your car are starting to scare me! Please tell me you don't flip through that darned thing while you're flying down the highway. It's bad enough that you probably have your cell phone in one hand, but managing a 10-pound book in the other hand makes me wonder about your driving records.

Wow, a copy in your car?... Check your cell phones. I'll bet you'll find easy access to Google via a built-in browser. Some (most?) carriers also offer free directory assistance. As a last resort, there's always Google's free directory assistance: 1-800-Goog-411. But for the safety and benefit of those of us around you on the road, can you please pitch the Yellow Pages you have sitting in your car?!

David Mayhew

Call me crazy, but I kind of like getting information from books. I'll resist the powerful attraction of web browsing on a 1-inch screen and keep that copy of the yellow pages in my car, along with the ice scraper, boots, and other supplies in the "you never know what you'll need" pile in the trunk.

Kent Larsen

My prediction is that the yellow pages will finally disappear when some other service (online presumably) has the same share of mind that the yellow pages has.

Right now, when I think of trying to find a local business, I either google for their website or look it up in old yellow. I DON'T have an online service that comes to mind that has the same association as the yellow pages, although when I think about it a minute, I do know that several companies offer on-line directories like the yellow pages. I just never visit them without having them come up in a google search.

On the consumer side, at least, it is a matter of perception. No one has gained that position in the consumer's mind.

FWIW, as far as advertisers are concerned, I don't think that they know of an alternative place to advertise that targets the local area. Online advertising is available, sure, but again, most people don't know well any service that offers the same function for local advertisers.

I'm sure someone will come along eventually and gain that share of the consumer and advertisers' mind. Until that happens, expect to see old yellow on your doorstep.


Hey there - Have to tell you I am not one of those folks who drive down the happy highway talking on the phone and zipping through the YP. I do admit to an occasional chat on the phone but only occasionally.

I keep the YP in the car because I can get an address for a business for which I may be searching and a phone number. However, I did not know that you could get directory assistance from Google. So I have learned something new today and thank you!

Something strange today - I found my home copy of the YP in my upstairs bathroom. Someone found a need for it but I have not found out for what yet. So there is always a need for the YP in my house!


What about yellowpages.ca? I use it all the time.

Joe Wikert

Hi Joan. Yeah, I know there are a variety of yellowpages.xxx's out there but I just find a simple Google search takes me where I need to go.


Joe -

You should make a long bet about this, and see if you get any takers.

When I was in college(2001 ± 1 year) they stopped printing the student directories. I think all University-Wisconsin schools have now stopped printing their student directories. I think that has something to say about the future of printed directories in itself.

I keep a yellow pages in my trunk for when I go camping. I always forget the kindling.


Hey, David If you're wondering if there is a service online that puts focus on local ads. I work for YELLOWPAGECITY.COM and we are not a corporate high pressuring service. Any type of heading we have a client in(ex:roofing contractors,attorneys,chiropractors etc) is provided with a colorful,animated,website linked, and informative display ads. Not to mention these ads unlike the print directory are around 80% less expensive. If the local business does not have a website which is the case most of the time, we design and host them one for FREE. Before even considering making a payment our clients by basic procedure are allowed to veiw the traffic reports(stats) for their type of business and within a specific time period and the exact location of their customers area. In the cities we've already penetrated some of the most renoun attorneys and contractors of these areas have ads with us and alot of them have not returned to the print directory, which isn't too suprising when the company has a 82% renewal rate. We some what understand that no one really looks up yellow pages for everything online. The reason we and our clients are so succesful with this is because gain the top placement with google for specific headings in specific areas(EX:tampa landscape contractors) go ahead try it we always come up top. The print directories prices are one of the reason the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I've provided tons small family owned businesses with a quarter page ad in color and a free website for the price of a cable tv bill a month, which mind you with the book the ad alone in black and white would run someone 7 to 10 THOUSAND DOLLARS. How long will they last? some say three years some say twenty or never. Me I'd say around five years seeing that the enviromentalists are already throwing a fit about all of the trees that are cut down because of the yellow pages alone, the global warming situation(Al Gore documentary), and most of all the reactions of business owners that i've had point out a typo in their fifteen thousand dollar ad that can't be fixed for the entire year. When I am explaining our product to customers and they don't seem interested I simpley tell them" hey please do yourself a favor, don't pull a Kodak and ignore the changing technilogical enviroment of their market" suddenly they become very open minded.


So yellow pages are dead? Not, I sold a 1/2 page to a dentist lastyear told the staff to make sure they track every call ( where the new patient found the dentist), well the practice was spending around $800 @ month, from June 07 to Jan 08 the ad produced 127 new patients and generated $43,000 revenue! The dentist and myself don't believe the yp's are dead yet.


OPT-OUT of the Yellow Pages!!

For those of you who never use your Yellow and White Pages and think they waste a staggering amount of natural resources during their production and distribution, visit www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org. This is the first website that allows you to AUTOMATICALLY opt-out of receiving the Yellow and/or White Pages!

We at www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org understand that some individuals still use the Yellow Pages, and it is for this reason that we offer the OPTION to opt-out and are not trying to stop the delivery of these books. We just don't understand why we are given a book we didn't ask for, and then are told we can recycle them using OUR time and OUR gas money. If we want a phone book, we will call and ask for one.

In addition to offering consumers the chance to opt-out of the Yellow Pages, www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is working with local governments all over the country to help enact regulations to curb the UNSOLICITED delivery of these books.

Visit www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org, learn about this nationwide grassroots movement, and OPT-OUT of the Yellow Pages!

Phil Cantwell
Founder, www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org

Say Yellow to the future grasshopper

So let me get this straight. A pipe breaks in the bathroom and while it is pumping 7 gallons a minute unto the floor, you just fire up your google and start looking for a plumber. Your son cuts his finger to the bone. You lock yourself out of the car. You just broke a tooth off. Its raining and the roof is leaking. Fire up the old reliable dell. Maybe when they actually get the computer to be a speedy reliable tool.

Joe Wikert

Um, no, I don't see Google *or* the Yellow Pages fitting any of those situations. Let's see... I already know a plumber, so I'm just calling his number because it's right there on a refrigerator magnet. If my son cuts his finger to the bone I'm not calling anyone -- I'm just driving him to the hospital! I lock myself out of the car and I call my wife or kids on their cellphones because we have duplicates all over the place. I just broke a tooth off and I'm going straight to my dentist (don't you have a dentist already?!). Raining and roof leaking? Sorry, I already had that one replaced 2 years ago and I know the owner personally, so I'm just giving him a call.

I think you've made me realize that I've never, I'll repeat, never, used something like the Yellow Pages in an "emergency", and I doubt I ever will. Btw, many of these things could happen while you're away from home. In the event I *do* need to find a hospital, dentist, etc., on the road, do you really think I'm going to hunt for a big yellow book when my Blackberry, with full Internet access, is right on my hip?


Search engines are great I love to browse on the net. However, the YP have an 87% buy rate to 4% on search engines. People use the YP to buy things now, thats it. Online YP are fine about a 40% buy rate. If there are 100 florists in a city where do they advertise? If they all want the first page of Google they are out of luck. People will go ten pages back in the YP but who goes to page 2 of Google?

Tom Lyons

I guess that's the question, whats the usage of each. I doubt yellow pages are dead, but they have smaller share of searching consumers each year.

I noticed that YP seem to have lot's of stats to spin their case, I'm not saying they are untrue, I'm sure they are correct, but Google doesn't need to make a case, it's obvious as local search advertising dollars are increasing each year.

As consumer behaviour keeps changing how will YP adapt. How long will it really take before it starts to hurt YP's bottom line. 5 years, 10 years, 30 years?

Small business owners keep with what they know, Newspaper advertising is a good example of that, despite for many local companies it's incredibly ineffective. Not for all, but many.

As for buy rate, what a great stat to spin. I receive 2 leads, both purchased, 100% buy rate. I'd prefer a 4% buy rate from 100 leads. Buy rate is not relevant unless put in context with leads generated.

However, as any marketer will tell you, if both generate profitable return on investment, then do them both.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)