Does anyone still use the paper Yellow Pages?

I have been watching where and how I receive advertisements over the last several months. If you really pay attention, you will see ads everywhere! I mean everywhere! Last week I was in a Starbucks restroom and there was an ad on the toilet and toilet roll dispenser for I had met Ryan "Hup" Hupfer, one of the founders of Indymojo, in December during the Indy Masters of Business Online seminar, and thought he would get a kick to know his marketing material is showing up in the rest room.... Turns out he was in the Starbucks and said he was the one who put the Indymojo stickers in the restroom "Old habits die hard." No place is sacred.

Which leads me to the Yellow Pages. This is an icon of marketing and advertising, starting in 1883. Most people still think of the Yellow Pages as a paper thing. It still is printed and delivered to almost everyone (it seems to come to our house a lot!).

So here I am listening to a Yellow Pages sales rep talk (yes, a real person) to perspective ad buyer about buying space in this thick book. And going through my mind is "does anyone still use the Yellow Pages?". Our phone books at home sit in a drawer that, on occasion, get pulled out to look up the phone number of a mower repair shop. So I have used it. But it is so not the internet; it's paper! Thin cheap paper at that. And to search it requires page flipping. And the ads in the book are low tech in terms of color options that can be printed.

It is true that the data in the print edition is also on the web version. As I listen to the sales pitch, the Yellow Pages will offer, for a price, the ability to get your ad on the web via their site. "On the inetrnet, we will give yo a full page for your ad." shows even their digital sales model is physical based on print paper.

And the delivery model is time bound; Yellow Page books are only printed once a year; miss the window and you have to wait 12 months; I can imagine the sales push those last few months before the to print dead line.

Another interesting aspect of the Yellow Pages is they sell "by the inch". The more physical space you want the more dollars to spend.

What about the tracking and metrics? Do you ever say "I found your number in the Yellow Pages" when you actually do and then call a business? And would the business really track this; no human code (software for people) for "called from Yellow Pages".

So why would a business use the Yellow Pages? What are the aspects of this that make the marketing spend worth it? I have no answer; Post your thoughts!

Side note: it is these types of things that are ripe for a business model disruption. We take for granted the Yellow Pages, it is just "there". It is boring, normal, not exciting, dull. This is where a great design and delivery of something new would catch people's eye!

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2 Responses:

Interesting article! That sales rep you overheard just might have been me!

I agree with your statement in regards to true metrics of a yellow pages ad. Unless the person who answers the phone asks the right question, every time, results cannot be properly measured.

This day and age we don't have to worry about burdening the caller or the receiver, as the use of RCF (Remote Call Forwarding) numbers solves the problem! Utlizing a separate phone number in a yellow pages ad can electronically meter the results of a particular ad, allowing you to compile some great information about where your calls are coming from (or aren't!).

Having said all this: yes, the calls are coming in, and more than you would think (especially with all the Internet advertising hype).

Though you or I may not personally use the phone book to contact a local business, without a doubt enough people are!

There are people for whom the Yellow Pages makes sense, me for example. Many of my clients are either quite anti-high tech or quite old. I had quite a major online presence for a decade or so and didn't get a single enquiry from that source, but in the meantime I got quite adequate enquiries from the paper Yellow Pages. It all depends on what your potential customers are like.