Fingers Still Do the Walking…But Mainly Online

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Piled up yellow pages outside an apartment building in Park Slope, Brooklyn (Kathleen Horan)

It's still common to see piles of phone books delivered to apartment buildings around the city. But many of these yellow pages lay neglected outside front doors as people use the internet far more frequently to find phone numbers.

Walter Avaroma, 28, works for a Manhattan tech company. He giggled when he thought about the last time he actually held a phone book in his hands. “It had to be college,” Avaroma recalled.  But he said he understands why the once iconic book hasn’t yet gone by the wayside. “I think the reason they’re still viable is to reach a certain demographic,” he mused. “I know my grandma isn’t going to use the internet.”

Research director Brad Adgate, with Horizon Media, agrees that phone book advertisers don’t mind targeting the older crowd.

"It’s pretty much generational,” Adgate explained. “An older audience are the ones most likely to use the yellow pages.”

The internet isn’t the only factor in the shrinking industry. Environmental concerns have also prompted some companies to print fewer directories and help residents opt out of unwelcome automatic deliveries.

David Goddard, with IMS Local Search Authority, a company that specializes in yellow page stats, said the industry is expected to print about 400 million yellow page books in 2013 — down 19 million from last year.

The use of thick, yellow-paged book might be declining, but it still generated $6.9 billion in revenue last year for the companies that print and distribute them, according to the market research firm BIA/Kelsey.  A program director with the firm, Charles Laughlin, is projecting that print revenues will continue to fall and will dip to less than half that number by 2016.

Laughlin noted that service companies like plumbers and locksmiths have the most success with yellow page ads.

Still Horizon Media’s Adgate mused in the not to distant future things may change.

“The yellow pages will be something we look back whimsically on in the years ahead and think—remember we had these big books that were like 1,000 pages long and cluttered with ad messages?” Adgate joked.


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Comments [4]

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Oct. 20 2012 10:46 PM
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Oct. 12 2012 02:50 AM
Chris from United States

Very well put Larry.

Online or Offline the Icon of Yellow is extremely significant to local search and will be for a very long time to come.

Visiting the Yellow Search® site shows what a global brand it has become.

Technology will ebb and flow, with the Yellow brands having the edge when the technology becomes equalized.

Jul. 27 2012 08:57 AM
Larry Angove

I am President and CEO of the Association of Directory Publishers, the 114-year old trade association representing the interests of print and online
Yellow Pages publishers, and just read your July 22 blog entitled "Fingers Still Do the Walking...But Mainly Online".
Let me recognize upfront that print usage is in decline mainly because technological advances have allowed the business information that made the print Yellow Pages the go-to resource for over a century to be available over a variety of distribution platforms. A rebalancing of usage ratios is an inevitable consequence.
The demographics that use the Yellow Pages the most are indeed the Matures and Baby Boomers. It is also true that those demographics hold over three-quarters of the wealth in this country and half of the spendable income.
Dr. Dennis Fromholzer, of CRM Associates in Boulder, Colorado annually conducts more that 26,000 call measurement studies monitoring some 600,000 display ads in nearly 1,800 Yellow Pages directories across the country.
His latest research shows that the number of calls being generated by these ads has risen for three consecutive years, including an 18% increase in 2011. He also reports that the conversion rate (from call or click to sale) of print Yellow Pages is 15-25 times higher that online references and that print Yellow Pages produce a return on investment for print display advertisers of $14.20 for every dollar expended.
Despite demographic and geographic variances, the fact is that print Yellow Pages remain a more effective option for advertisers than suggested in your blog.

Jul. 23 2012 01:41 PM

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