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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.]

7 comments for Top 25 Things Vanishing from America: The Yellow Pages »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    Hi Chris,
    I saw that you too picked up Walletpop, what was revealing for me were the comments… I saw that you spent time at Verizon (I spent my time at BT Directories), you will probably appreciate what we are doing at http://www.brownbook.net (the free directory that anyone can edit). It incorporates the types of opportunities that the traditional directory companies can not consider because their model does not easily support it. The point being that the services that will replace the ageing dinosaurs are evolving very quickly and incorporating a drastically reduced cost model, simple international roll out, peer production, social networking… they include Brownbook.net, Qype, TrustedPlaces…

    Comment by Marc Lyne — 7/22/2008 @ 9:24 am


  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    I find it interesting that the only places I read about the print Yellow Pages referred to as “obsolete dinosaurs” is on sites sponsered by website services. Its been going on for years and is no truer today than it was last time “green” was fashionable (anyone else remember the 70s?). The internet was going to make the print YPs obsolete..didn’t happen. Now the bandwagon touts that mobile advertising is going to replace the print product. Not a chance, but keep spouting it..maybe you can make a few bucks off the ignorant before the curtain gets pulled back to reveal the truth. Print will still be here waiting…

    Comment by Roger S. — 7/24/2008 @ 2:20 pm


  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    This organization is not associated with a web site group or any Yellow Page association.

    Consumers can “opt out” of receiving telephone books at http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org. They will contact the publishers and inform them to stop delivering books. This is a free service for consumers. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is working with state and local governments on ordinances concerning the delivery of unsolicited telephone books. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is not against the telephone books but against the delivery of 4 to 5 pounds of paper on people’s door step 5 to 6 times per year and being told it is our responsibility to recycle something we did not ask for. If we need a book we will call. Otherwise I “opt out” from receiving it.

    Comment by Kevin C — 7/25/2008 @ 9:24 am


  4. MyAvatars 0.2

    Roger, what do you mean by “The internet was going to make the print YPs obsolete..didn’t happen.”? It clearly has happened. Nobody my age has cracked open their phone book since they were too young to need it. I (and almost everyone I know) typically recycle a still shrink-wrapped book when the new shrink-wrapped book arrives.

    Comment by Basil Berntsen — 7/31/2008 @ 7:42 pm


  5. MyAvatars 0.2

    As a yellow page accont rep, all the above are to some degree true. The print directory usage is declining. However, baby boomers still use it and have you seen the size of the baby boomer generation still here and the $$$ they have at hand? YP publishers see a fure end in site though and are now heavily invested in internet yellow pages. The difference in revenue is staggering though: Thousands of dollars a month for a full age yellow page ad in a meium sized directory, a few hundred for a banner ad on a internet yellow page site. Can large print publishers continue to see 30million plus drops in revenue much longer?

    Comment by Dave — 1/2/2009 @ 12:25 pm


  6. MyAvatars 0.2

    This baby boomer never cracks the phone book any more.

    This quarter century plus business owner is NOT renewing his numerous Yellow Pages adds this year.

    Buh Bye Yellow Pages and your huge monthly bills. You won’t be missed.

    - Lee

    Comment by Lee — 2/18/2009 @ 2:10 pm


  7. MyAvatars 0.2

    I just left a sales career in the Yellow Pages of 13 years. I won the awards and had a great time. I saw the decline first hand. They are doing everything in their power to hang on to the millions of dollars in revenue. Here is a fact the Yellow Pages in Phoenix for Dex has had approximately 30% declines now for the last three years. This makes it a smaller booked revenue than we have here in Albuquerque. Faster markets have caught on. The action has shifted to the internet and is bigger than ever because everyone has Google either in there hand or close at hand.

    Comment by Stacey Smith — 3/17/2010 @ 1:53 pm


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