Yellow-Pages Publishers Teetering On The Brink

from the didn't-see-this-coming,-not-at-all dept

A few times a year, I find a copy or two of Yellow Pages directories sitting on my doorstep. Never mind that I haven’t used one in several years, they just keep on coming, from multiple publishers. Personally, it’s far easier — and better — to just search online for whatever I’m looking for. There’s the easy access to maps, or the ability to go to a site like Yelp and get other people’s feedback and opinions on various businesses. While I imagine there’s still a fair amount of people that use their Yellow Pages books, it’s hardly surprising to read that several of the different publishers are close to going out of business. Shares in two of the bigger companies, Idearc and R.H. Donnelley, have dropped 99 percent in the last year, reflecting their deteriorating business and the lack of faith investors have in their ability to survive. In some way, this is pretty interesting: the publishers for so long had valuable businesses with more extensive relationships with local business owners than anybody. But perhaps they took that for granted, assuming that those relationships would carry them through the rise of the internet. But their web sites have generally been miserable, especially when compared to the business directories created by internet companies. While some of the publishers are trying to beef up their online efforts, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make up for their shriveling print revenues, meaning the Yellow Pages will soon be little more than memory.

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Companies: idearc, r.h. donnelley

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Comments on “Yellow-Pages Publishers Teetering On The Brink”

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Rose M. Welch says:

You said it!

I manage a branch of a small, family-owned jewelry company. We pay thousands of dollars each year for our tiny listing in the Yellow Pages, just one of the several publishing companies that distribute phone books. Literally, thousands of dollars.

We were recently discussing our advertising budget and we talked about what a waste that money was. We’ve been tracking our results for a while now and we’ve found that the newspaper and the Internet are our two biggest draws, with the radio being a close third.

Our television ads were horrendously expensive and useless, and the only phone book related business we get is people calling us on the notion that we’re a different local business with an alphabetically similar name.

We’ve decided not to renew out contracts with them. This is a very old, established company owned by people who are not computer or Internet savvy. One of them can answer their cell phone and the other can sort of check their e-mail. So even the people who I most thought would not like change recognize the uselessness of the tangible phone book.

dd says:

Followin in the footsteps of Western Union!

@Rose – good move, we all need to listen to the metrics and make changes to survive. Make sure you’re also listed on as they’re linked directly to Google Maps.

It’s baffling to think that relatively smart people running these companies would be so blind as to not see the Internet train coming. Perhaps the companies do deserve to die but I feel bad for all the employees.

George in Waterford says:

Re: Followin in the footsteps of Western Union!

Are you old enough to remember dial up internet connections? That was the same company that sent you the big thick ph books. I know for fact that Verizon was a big player in the internets early days. They supplied the connections for everyone before broadband Roadrunner and the like took some of the preasuer off them. As for makeing or brackeing their business with the phone book, it never was much of a factor. They made a lot of money in what they called information systems. The paper book was only a very small part of that. They big money was made in CD’s distrubted, sent and sold all around the world to Corp. like GE , TRW , Boweing , General Dynamics and so on. These disks are a Phone Book on steriods. They encompass the whole knowen world where there is comm. connections where anyone or business might want to talk trade or do business. They been doing it for years. Fact is Verizon sold the info end of the business some time ago to IDARC a information systems only company. I think you will see the big book around for some time to come. Just like the Newspaper some people just like haveing it.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Followin in the footsteps of Western Union!

I don’t. Last year’s rep was practically illiterate and e-mailed me a note that would make a blogger grammar Nazi comatose. I e-mailed back with a note explaining that a) when people misspell words, use bad grammar, and ask for money all at the same time, it looks like spam and b) for their rates, they would have someone literate e-mail me.

Sean says:

Re: Re: Followin in the footsteps of Western Union!

What is even worse is when that happens and the rep is using and AOL email address. I have actually called several companies and told them that since they used an AOL email to contact me that I have now thrown away all info regarding the company and their product. To let you know I work in the medical field and often order equipment.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Followin in the footsteps of Western Union!

I have never heard of that site and the likelihood is that our client base hasn’t either. In addition, I’ve never seen that url in any search results and we do alot of jewelry-related searches. So I think I’ll pass on paying for a listing there… Thanks, anyway!

SHobbs (user link) says:

Yelllow Pages

Of course, this is similar to what happened in the movie and photography industries. A good number of those companies survived to thrive.
There’s no magic bullet, media across the board is suffering and small businesses need all the help they can get right now. Many are doing very well with the YP, print and online, the ROI proves out.
SMEs need to be able to track, adjust, make updates and use combination of marketing tools. It isn’t really just about online or print. It’s about both and more.
I’d suggest that some of the YP companies will come through this just fine and others won’t. Success will belong to the companies who can best utilize their sales force, technology (in this case online, search, distribution deals, video, voice, etc.) and serve their advertisers. With over 17 billion references to YP (print and online) last year, there is still a huge marketplace for advertisers to reach buyers.
Full disclosure, I work for the Yellow Pages Association.

Brian Anderson (user link) says:

Sounds like traveling Dictionary salesmen to me

Steve Balmer of M$ predicts that all print media will soon disappear, and even though I disagree with him on the time frame, I think he said in 10 years, I certainly agree that most printed information such as magazines, newspapers, mail advertisements and so on are going the way of the dodo.

Remember when the Dictionary salespeople would go door to door? Alright, that is before my time too, but I’ve heard the stories 😀

Anonymous Coward says:

Cutting the wrong costs.

I used to like to use them because they are easier to browse (with page flipping–which doesn’t work online), they are already selected for local, they don’t 404, and the like. My problem is that I receive two copies each (two phone lines) of three different books-with-pages-that-are-yellow, and all of them are thrown on the driveway in the rain. Even if I want to dry them out, they’ve swollen up something terrible and stack badly.

In their effort to cut costs, the companies haven’t chosen the right target. How about send me only one, but make sure it arrives dry?
Or how about the JC Penney model of sending a card one can use to pick them up or a card to mail in to request delivery?
Or how about placing them in stacks at the front of stores along with the real estate brochures?

I suspect the delivery waste is because they get their revenues based on how many they distribute (number of eyes), rather than on effectiveness.

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