Sunday, March 30, 2008

Phone books relevant, phone book industry says. And up next: the emperor discusses his new clothes!

MSNBC reports on the phone book industry's attempts to tout its own relevance:

Industry leaders assert that consumers use yellow pages at a higher rate than newspapers and radio for local business information. Shoppers who open yellow books intend to spend cash, they say, and businesses advertising in the national print yellow pages can expect a return of about 13-to-1, according to statistics from the nonprofit trade group Yellow Pages Association.
This is just absurd. I don't know where these numbers come from, but I haven't touched a phone book in months, and even then it was only to pick it up from outside my front door and throw it away. And I suspect I'm not alone: I know of only one person who uses the phone book, and while he's not exactly a Luddite, he's no Steve Jobs, either. Of course, it's hard to find credible phone book usage stats, because most of them are provided by--you guessed it--phone book company executives.

Old Yeller isn't completely useless today (see this Slate story about the role it plays in Internet culture). But unless you're in an industry that appeals only to the shrinking population of those without Internet access, an ad in the Yellow Pages is a waste of money.

When did you last use a phone book? And if that was to find a residential phone number, when is the last time you found a product or service via the Yellow Pages?


Beth said...

Our family has been known to plop a toddler on a phone book so they can reach the kitchen table. Other than that, I rarely use them. When in need of a number, I usually refer to

MichaelK said...

The last time I used one was when I had to look up Comcast's number, I had to call them because the internet was down and I didn't want to call information, for some reason.

Sky Manor said...

I go online to search for lots of things, including going to for local businesses.

I don't use the print book as often, but it was still easier to compare ads from a bunch of paving contractors when I needed my driveway done recently though.

Insofar as asking an online audience about print versus online, not exactly an unbiased sampling.

ken said...

Those stats you don't want to believe come from several highly respected research groups that do research on a range of media products, including yellow pages. The data is real so believe it.

The Internet is wonderful thing, but myth that it all we need doesn't hold water. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the broadband market is about tapped out. There will always be a good percentage of the population that will never have access to the industry’s Internet products. Barely more than 50% of households in the U.S. (about 56 million homes), currently subscribe to a high-speed Internet service. An additional 21 million households still use dial-up connections (yes, you read that right – dial-up connections).

The VCR didn’t replace movie theaters, TV didn’t replace radio, and the Internet will NOT be replacing the printed Yellow Pages. It will supplement it. There is no other directional media that can provide buyers the information they need when they need it about local businesses than the print Yellow Pages. It is truly the original local search engine….