Print YP Will Eventually Be ‘Opt-In’

AT&T started it but now Canada’s Yellow Pages Group has decided to stop delivering residential white pages directories:

The Yellow Pages Group has ended automatic delivery of the residential phone directory in seven major cities.

“An increasing number of Canadians, particularly in urban areas, use our online and mobile resources YellowPages.ca and Canada411.ca to find residential phone numbers,” Marc Tellier, president and CEO of YPG, said in a statement . . .

That move is expected to result in a reduction of more than five million copies – about 3,500 tonnes of paper – a year across Canada.

In the affected markets – Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, the Ottawa-Gatineau area and Quebec City – delivery of the Yellow Pages directory will continue on an annual basis.

Right now most YP publishers offer an “opt-out” policy with print yellow pages. If users don’t want to receive them they can request cessation of print YP delivery.

Yet the public doesn’t make the same distinctions between yellow and white pages that the industry does. White pages, for most publishers, are a “cost center” and deliver little or no advertising revenue. (There are some publishers in Europe for example that do make considerable ad revenue from print WP.) Print yellow pages generate the lion’s share of directory publisher revenue.

However consumers at large likely view white pages and yellow pages print directories in a very similar way. As I’ve argued in the past, pushing opt-in white pages means that relatively soon consumer, environmental groups and individuals will be calling for opt-in print YP (some already have). There’s a logic here that’s almost inevitable.

Regarding the white pages initiative, publishers are seeking to be good “corporate citizens” even as they act in their own self interest to reduce costs. I’m not trying to say that they shouldn’t make WP opt-in.

What I am trying to say is that they need to be mindful that the longer term impact of this move will be a similar call for opt-in YP. There are several things they can do in the interim:

  • Advertise the value of print YP both to the consumer and as a source of economic value to the community
  • Continue to invest in the directory to improve its utility
  • Integrate the print and digital products in several ways (websites, email addresses, SMS/QR codes)
  • Prepare for the coming day when print YP becomes opt-in. It may be three years; it may be seven years from now but it is coming

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Update: California State Senator Leland Yee just tried unsuccessfully to do this very thing. Yee accused AT&T of behind behind the defeat of the bill, which would have made home delivery of YP opt-in:

Yee, D-San Mateo, in February had trumpeted introduction of the bill, which would end home delivery of phone directories unless customers opt in to receive them. But when SB 920 came to a vote Thursday, eight senators decided not to weigh in — including the bill’s two co-authors and a few members who’d voted for the bill in committees. One of those earlier “aye” votes even turned to a no.

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7 Responses to “Print YP Will Eventually Be ‘Opt-In’”

  1. Mike Stewart Says:

    Subscription based distribution with incentives and prices. Fail to compete, you die. I never understood why coupons are shoved in the back. They need to be in the book, and folks that subscribe to the book/business, get the deals like Groupon. And what is up with the continued use of Alphabetized listings!

    Hopefully, someone creates some hyper-local books/magazines and gets the point.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Home pages (in the midwest) is apparently doing some innovative things along these lines

  3. Mike Stewart Says:

    Is that Dick Larkin of http://www.ypcommando.com? I have been a fan of him since I started with Verizon YP out of High School! Only the last 9 years! He was Internet President for YellowBook in the early 2000′s?

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yep.

  5. Mike Stewart Says:

    I prredict by 2012, a major magazine publisher will buyout what remains of the print yellowpages company, if the yellowcrooks don’t kill it first! Lol.

  6. Dave Hucker Says:

    RE: UPDATE….
    This legislation failed because of California Chambers of Commerce and business association groups pressure on overzealous (IMHO) legislators. LOL. (shaking head)

    In the middle of one of the worst recessions in recent history, legislators are trying to kill one of the MAIN advertising resources for SMBs.

    Unbelievable…lol

  7. Dallas Web Design Says:

    I agree with what Mike Stewart said. Plus he has the insider scoop since he was working there for so long.

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