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Top 25 Things Vanishing from America: The Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages Dinosaur

AOL’s Walletpop blog has created a list of the Top 25 Things Vanishing from America. They listed “The Yellow Pages” as item number 24, along with such things as outhouses, classified ads, dial-up internet access, phone landlines, VCRs, cameras that use film, and more.

I’ve written before about how print yellow pages usage is decreasing due to the internet and mobile phones, and even internet yellow pages usage may be dropping due to newer generations becoming less aware of what yellow pages are. Others such as Bill Gates have also predicted the end of the print yellow pages while analysts such as those with The Kelsey Group have only predicted a sharper decline in usage of print YP this year, compared with last. [* This last sentence subsequently corrected after publication – see below.]

So, when will print yellow pages ultimately go the way of the dinosaur?

It’s unclear since some analysts have predicted a 3% overall decline per year for printed YP income, while others have stated the rate could be accelerating, with print YPs dying off within about 10 years. Also, some claim the demise of the printed directories is greatly exaggerated, since some smaller and more-specialized directories have seen increases in business.

What is clear is that increasing access to alternative sources of information in the way of internet local search, 411 services, and search-enabled mobile phones are definitely eroding usage of print YPs by some degree.

Yellow pages would seem to have already moved past the tipping point — when people begin listing YP books nostalgically as icons of the past, and when consumers are demanding that YP companies stop dropping books on their doorsteps — it seems like the end may be drawing near. If it is an accelerating business trend, no amount of guerrilla marketing, nanotechnology, and possibly questionable YP usage statistics will prop up the larger companies dependent on this business model unless they diversify rapidly.

[* The sentence in paragraph two originally read “Others such as Bill Gates and The Kelsey Group have also predicted the end of the print yellow pages.” That sentence originally only mentioned Bill Gates when I was still drafting it, and I accidentally rendered it incorrect when I added in mention of The Kelsey Group without properly qualifying that they have only predicted some erosion of print usage. The Kelsey Group has not to my knowledge predicted an absolute end of the print YP industry.]

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