Have you recycled your phone book yet?
Back in 2008 we started to see a significant shift from the printed yellow pages over to the Internet while searching for local information. It started to make sense as Google, Yahoo and Verizon Local searches were filling with advertisers on the prowl for more business.
We're midway through 2010 and I just received my annual dumping of yellow pages in a questionably-recyclable binder. I forced my 8-year-old to carry it directly to the recycling bin, all the way describing to him WHAT IT WAS...
Do People Still Use The Yellow Pages?
This question is nearly impossible to answer with any quality data. In 2008 ComScore released a study that found Search Engines(31%) were used more often than printed yellow pages(30%). For 30% of local search, I'd keep some money in the print.
In 2010, the numbers are exceedingly difficult to find. Yellow Page pundits are waging a war against the books in an effort to cut costs in delivery, complaints, and recycling. They are all guilty of filtering numbers to support the agenda.
Cities like Seattle and New York seem to agree with the state of California in their disdain for the printed pages. Each of them are waging a war against the blanket delivery of the books stating numbers that point to a heavy move away from the print. A New York Times story states White Pages may be the first to go.
Usage is Higher in Rural Areas
Adocument by the Yellow Pages Association states that rural and suburban households use the printed pages more than city dwellers. Of course, this group is pushing the continued use of books and they don't cite the source of this statement. They continue to assert that 70 percentage of Californians used print directories in 2009.
Keep Yellow Page Ads?
All of my clients ask me if they should keep their printed Yellow Pages ads or if they should move that budget to SEO/SEM initiatives. In good conscience I tell each of them to keep the budget diversified and retain the Yellow Pages but be smart about it.
Simple items like making certain all of your ads state your website address can help with SEO if the ad appears online.
A History Lesson
There's a lesson in the history of information before mass acceptance of the Internet. I use a Google Android phone for everything and I wouldn't dream of opening a phone book. I'm guilty of reliance of one source in my city-dwelling mode of being but that's not to say that I think the phone book is useless. It certainly has a lot of information in it, just not as much as my Android.
So, this week I was on the way to the recycling bin with my son. He's carrying the phone books in their little yellow bag. He asks, "Dad, what are these books?"
I say, "That's what the Internet used to look like."