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Bill Gates Predicts Demise of Yellow Pages

Last week at the Microsoft Strategic Account Summit 2007, Bill Gates interacted with Microsoft’s Corporate VP and Chief Media Officer, Joanne Bradford in an interview/Q&A session, and he predicted that among those under 50, yellow pages usage would drop down to zero within five years!


Now, he was apparently speaking solely about the print yellow pages, but the statement still seemed a tad bit bearish, considering that Microsoft is partnered closely with my former company, Idearc, one of the largest yellow pages companies (print or otherwise) in the world, to license the yellow pages data and service for use in Microsoft’s Live Local Search, and for the MSN Yellow Pages.

Now, Gates isn’t alone in predicting the demise of printed directories, since many others have also foreseen their eventual extinction, including me. But I think that other analysts out there have stated terms more in the ten-year range. Even if the numbers of some directories are declining, I still note that usage and sales are still very strong, so I’d be inclined to expect that print YP will likely go on for longer than five years.

It could be even longer, if there’s some more revolutionary tech introduced, such as I earlier suggested in “Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

UPDATE: Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, also posted on his blog about the Summit, and he quoted a Seattle Times report which gave a further quote from Bill Gates about the yellow pages:

The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend.

Dodge further states:

Microsoft’s recent acquisitions of MotionBridge and Screentonic, coupled with the acquisition of TellMe will support Gates vision of search and advertising on smart phones.


3 comments for Bill Gates Predicts Demise of Yellow Pages »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    When a celebrity speaks like Bill Gates people take notice. When that celebrity is closely related to the event he is commenting on even more people take notice.

    My company is a compilation of Local Search, Vertical and National directories that has its total presence and profitability online. Therefore, I favor hearing credible information like what Mr. Gates is saying. Plus you your self have said,� Now, Gates isn’t alone in predicting the demise of printed directories, since many others have also foreseen their eventual extinction, including me.� So that does add some stability to his point of view.

    My humble opinion is that print yellow page companies that are not currently entrenched online are starting to zealously look for avenues to strengthen their offline endeavors with an online representation. Since there are approximately 7000 offline Print Yellow Page Directories there’s are huge need for the movement online. People always talk about AT&T and Dex . Yes they are huge companies with apparently effortless client share but the Internet is an equalizer. Currently many entrenched online yellow page opportunities are being overlooked.

    If one was to move to the future I think there should be an exploration of where these supposed wealthy dinosaurs are going and will there be a transition to online yellow page industry. Most agree that this movement is inevitable. The larger companies should be concerned as well. Should they leave the back door open as they are doing presently and let the competition walk right in? I can’t answer that. Internet users embrace concept, usability, easy access, accuracy and detail of information collected. I see allot of voids currently with the large companies in this area. This will be an interesting chain of events that I am sure we will be surprising and perhaps entertaining by all.

    “5 Years people under 50�, that is one bold statement. Especially for an Industry that has been around for over 100 years. Do I wonder if it’s accurate? I think the question to me would be, “Do you hope Mr. Gates is accurate?� (SMILES)

    Comment by Martin Snytsheuvel — 5/17/2007 @ 9:49 am

  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    Anyone who tries using Dex’s absolutely strange and dysfunctional online yellow page service will quickly realize that their online product is hopeless. Meanwhile, their reps quote 10 year old “studies,” anecdotal drivel, etc. in theirs sales pitches.

    Comment by Gary Kelloff — 7/10/2007 @ 5:51 pm

  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    Bill Gates is right but his predictions are 10 years late. I have been casting the voice of print yellow pages doom since 1998.
    As a yellow pages cost reduction consulting firm we have witnessed a steady decline in public useage in the print media and more in electonic. Plus we note the declining page count and the deep discounts that the major old guard publishers offer in order to compete with the overlay books. Yellow Pages have always been the business communities largest headache commonly called the “Neccessary Evil” Which is true. However the migrane of all yellow pages headaches is looming in the distance as the electronic media starts gouging the business man and woman
    with the “Buck and Wing” market stratagies being cooked up by the publisher “geeks”

    Comment by Matt P Tonning — 1/19/2008 @ 2:52 pm

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