Natural Search Blog


Print Yellow Pages Usage On Decline Or Not?

Walking FingersMy article on how the “Yellow Pages Usage Stats Are Likely Wrong” went up earlier at Search Engine Land, and the details I highlight in it provide some strong circumstantial evidence that this year’s earlier industry statistics stating that print YP book usage hadn’t dropped over the year previous are likely incorrect.

As I point out, those statistics were all based on telephone polling, and those polls missed having representative samples of cell phone only households, according to their published methodology. Various research groups and government agencies have been saying that this is a significant chunk of the population — anywhere from 13.6%, growing to as much as 25% by the end of this year.

When you further realize that this segment is younger, and likely earlier adopters of technology, you can see that there might be a strong reason to believe that their usage profiles probably differ significantly from the land-lined population — they’re probably using print YP less than those who were polled.

This chain of reasoning is an assumption — there’s no absolute evidence to support it. But, the lack of representative sampling in the original polling data leaves us with no alternative but to try to put the findings up against logical reasoning.

It’s hard to monitor and assess usage of offline media, so print yellow pages are not the only ones that struggle sometimes to show value proposition. Print newspapers, magazines, billboards, and others also have similar difficulties in showing how many consumers see them.

Of course, some people have pushed real hard to count offline media — Google has apparently been interested in this Eyebox device which counts when people look at wall ads or billboards.

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8 comments for Print Yellow Pages Usage On Decline Or Not? »

  1. MyAvatars 0.2

    Chris, I read your article yesterday & thought you were absolutely right on target with your line of reasoning. The Print YP’s clearly have no incentive to provide accurate data about usage. I can say from one client’s experience in particular that his ROI from Print YP has decreased by 400% in the last three years. That doesn’t gibe with the data that were cited by the YPA at all.

    Comment by David Mihm — 7/29/2008 @ 11:14 am


  2. MyAvatars 0.2

    Dave: perhaps you need to look at your clients ad design.

    Chris: if an established, respected organization like KNI/SRI is not to be believed, I’m not sure who you would believe then.

    Comment by kenc — 7/30/2008 @ 9:04 am


  3. MyAvatars 0.2

    Kenc, it’s not that I won’t believe them. I think their methodology probably got a good polling sample a few years ago, but it’s now time to adjust it for the changing environment.

    If someone doesn’t point out the issue involved, I’m not sure that anyone would have any incentive to correct the potential gap.

    Comment by Chris Silver Smith — 7/30/2008 @ 9:57 am


  4. MyAvatars 0.2

    Chris,
    I have been following some of your work and I have to ask who pays your bills? If the answer is anything other than something to do with internet based advertising, I have to say I doub’t the relevance of what you say. Well, I no the answer to this and I suggest other blog readers do a bit a research on you as I have done. Just like most info on the internet you have an agenda and unfortunately it is not in the best interest of the people that read this. Your have zero proof to support your findings, but I sure can find plenty of proof to support print yellow pages, that surely applies to the directories that are publishing for a well known local phone service provider. But, keep up the good work spreading BS and fullfilling your own personal agenda. When it gets down to it internet has a ways to go for the average small business you know it and so do I.

    Comment by BBargar — 3/11/2009 @ 5:48 pm


  5. MyAvatars 0.2

    Hi, “BBargar” (or “SEO Specialist”, as you called yourself when commenting on another post on this blog) I very clearly show who I am and who I work for — it’s no big secret and this is sort of a failure if you’re intending for it to be a big expose’. I provide internet marketing consulting to businesses of all sizes (including to major YP companies).

    My agenda is straightforward: I’d like there to be clear statistical metrics about all media so that businesses can assess their likely worth adequately to make advertising decisions.

    If you’re trying to suggest that I’m somehow trying to convert YP advertisers to move their money from yellow pages to search optimization consulting — you’d be way, way off. In consulting and in conferences I speak at, I suggest that online yellow pages are highly valuable for local businesses to be represented within. Further, I consult for a few major YP companies, and I’m invested in some, too. I have no desire for them to fail.

    But, let’s be very clear: you don’t like what I’ve said, and instead of coming up with cogent reasons to doubt what I’ve demonstrated, you’re instead devolving to trying to attack the messenger. What I wrote was quite clear, and my sources were all cited. The YP statistics were based on highly faulty methodology. Those shaky results were then projected out to assumed figures for the entire U.S. population. People were incorrectly citing those figures as proof that print YP usage didn’t decline in the time period, when it very likely has.

    Print YP has some good value proposition for advertisers, if the pricing and product are right. But, with usage dropping, the value proposition still needs to be high — likely in terms of cheaper pricing or more ad features for the same pricing. If the price stays the same while usage is eroding, then the value proposition also erodes.

    Simple math, really.

    Comment by Chris — 3/12/2009 @ 5:25 pm


  6. MyAvatars 0.2

    Hey you two get a room. Use of printed YP are without doubt on the decline. Natural result of the ease of information availability online. Not to mention the massive gains of dominant data providers encroaching on their industry. Surely they are still relevant to advertisers, .. but declining and common sense shows us. .. OVER PRICED.

    Doesnt make sense for an advertiser to utilize them. When the same amount invested in other forms of promotion are sure to be both more affordable and more effective… shrugs.

    Comment by Whatever101 — 3/30/2010 @ 1:55 am


  7. MyAvatars 0.2

    WHAT A FANTASTIC CAREER MY WIFE AND I HAD. BOTH HAD WELL OVER 30 YEARS IN THE YELLOW PAGES BUSINESS. FROM SALES REP TO SALES TRAINERS AND THEN ON TO CORPORATE JOBS.WE PROBABLY KNOW THE BUSINESS BETTER THAN MOST OF YOU. IT WAS A GREAT RUN AND SAD TO SEE DIRECTORIES GETTING SMALLER AND HEADINGS THAT WERE VERY WELL DEVELOPED ARE NOW MOSTLY LISTINGS RATHER THAN LARGE ADS. AND I AM TALKING ABOUT DIRECTORIES IN MAJOR MARKETS. WHY??? WELL, ITS COMPETITION, LESS USAGE, THE INTERNET, SALES MANAGERS THAT LACK WHAT IT TAKES TO DEVELOP THEIR SALES PEOPLE AND CORPORATE DIRECTIVES THAT THREATEN THE EMPLOYEES JOBS. I’VE STAYED IN TOUCH WITH SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES OVER THE YEARS AND WHAT USED TO BE VERY HAPPY PEOPLE ARE NOW HATING TO GO TO WORK. ENOUGH SAID….WHAT A GREAT CAREER!!!!

    Comment by ELLIS — 4/10/2010 @ 9:39 pm


  8. MyAvatars 0.2

    Print YP usage is without question on a steady decline, however, with Google Local Listings built right into search, IYP is going to take a HUGE hit, as well.

    Comment by Dave — 7/29/2010 @ 5:40 pm


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