Yellow Pages Advertisers Questioning Print

Andrew Shotland, formerly of InsiderPages, now an SEO guru, pushed me his post that points to a yellow pages advertiser forum. Most (though not all) of the comments are critical of the print directory. If they’re representative of how larger numbers of advertisers are feeling it’s a dangerous time for the health and future of print.

As these WebVisible-Nielsen data reflect, the Internet now has the greatest penetration and usage among local media (click to enlarge):


That’s not to say “print is dead.” Print yellow pages usage is still healthy. However, SMB advertisers themselves are consumer-users and understand what’s going on in the market. Yet, on the other side of the equation/argument, is the role that yellow pages publishers play as “agencies” for their advertisers — delivering leads from the Internet and, later, mobile. Most local advertisers want access to Internet marketing but are confused about how to get their ads in front of consumers at the right time. Here’s data from our recent SMB survey:


Yellow pages publishers are working furiously and quickly to bring a “holistic” proposition to their advertisers and reposition themselves. But, as Andrew wonders, is it happening fast enough?


15 Responses to “Yellow Pages Advertisers Questioning Print”

  1. Brad Says:

    I have to question the basis of this whole post. You found advertisers at an ONLINE FORUM who are critical of print yellow pages? Oh my gosh!

    Might that be a skewed set of test subjects, since they are obviously people who spend a fair amount of time on the Internet? Of course those people who know how to market through the Internet will think print is not as good, because the Internet is probably the most cost-effective channel. However, I would venture a guess that most SMBs who advertise on Yellow Pages are not too sophisticated about the Internet, yet they know, year in and year out, Yellow Pages will drive them business. I’m not saying we’ll be looking at print yellow pages in 20 years, but come on, lets think a bit more about this stuff…

  2. “The Yellow Pages Are For Old People” Says:

    […] Greg Sterling has published some Webvisible-Nielsen data about this subject in his post Yellow Pages Advertisers Questioning Print Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    To Brad:

    Actually, if you look at the earnings of the print publishers, they’re all flat to declining. Insiders will tell you that print is suffering and that advertisers are starting to question it. The evidence above is anecdotal but it is representative of a segment of print YP advertisers who are questioning. And if they’re not questioning they may be balking at pricing, given the fragmentation of

    Some people are still getting a very good ROI from print YP. But all you have to do is look at the consumer data to see that the print directory is not being used as much as it has been historically.

  4. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    For a handful of categories like hotels, restaurants and attorneys, online beats print for rich decision-making info. For most other categories, print still wins. Eg, I recently needed my gutters cleaned. No useful info online, so I was forced to haul out the yellow brick and peruse the display ads.

    As soon as the rich content encapsulated in YP display ads for mundane categories like gutter cleaning finds its way into Google, we’ll see a truly major drop in print YP usage.

  5. Rich Hargrave Says:

    Great point from Malcolm, but what exicites me (as someone who runs the Internet division of a print YP company) is the Opus Research data. 15% don’t have the resources, 20% are confused, and 10% are skeptical. These are all our best prospects! Simply investing a bit of time face-to-face (yellow pages style) with a qualified Internet Sales Rep’s will bring these folks aboard. Self-serve is not the answer – never has been for the SMB market.

    All yellow pages publishers could be in this postion – if they choose; they have the relationships and are already “directional advertising experts”.

    Of the remaining 55% only 18% (no budget) are truely not a future prospect…

  6. AhmedF Says:

    I don’t see what all the hubbub about self-service is.

    MC’s approach is pretty shady, but that is still about 1/3rd of a million signed up. We have a lot of businesses who update their info (and then tell their business peers to do the same).

    If 20% are confused, and 10% are skeptical, and 15% don’t have the resources – that is still only 45%. That leaves a huge chunk possible for self-service.

  7. Greg Sterling Says:

    I would say the objections based on budget are still in the realm of education. People are perceiving potentially high costs online but don’t know what the real costs are.

  8. Greg Sterling Says:

    Only the group that “have all the business we need” are truly not prospects. The others to varying degrees are prospects and can be educated.

  9. AhmedF Says:

    To clarify – when I said hubbub, I meant all the venom I read against it.

    It’s not perfect, but it could work for a lot of businesses.

  10. earlpearl Says:

    I looked at the data in the same context that Rich and Ahmed above referenced it. There is an amazing amount of opportunity. Most of that needs “feet on the street” to convert, and in many cases the budgets are small so some types of scaled services need to be provided. Street on the feet doesn’t just have to be direct calls. There are many ways to get in front of a number of smb owners at a time.

    For Malcolm, it is true that many businesses and business types don’t show up well on the web….which leads to usage of print YP. That is why Google maps, Yahoo! local have developed. It also speaks to the opportunity. I need to source an article from late 2004 or 2005 referencing the ppc work an sem did for his father’s arcane home services business. The little effort converted the father’s business from being dependant on hard cover YP to the web from which the majority of revenues started to flow.

    The searchers on the web are there. Many of the businesses and the categories need to get exposure or more exposure. And IYP is not strong in all categories.

    So the opportunities are widespread. In many cases its a need to combine a scaled list of services with an effective “feet on the street campaign” to generate business.


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  12. Darrell Wade Smith Says:

    Local marketers that get it will be combining online and offline — creating an optimized lead path. That’s most likely the first phase of a local marketer incorporating online marketing strategies and tactics. I’d venture to guess most YP advertisers think of online marketing as an alternative to their YP when the reality is that they should be working together, using online tactics to build a database, demonstrate expertise and build a relationship.

  13. Chris Thomas Says:

    A recent survey by my Internet Marketing Company out of 350 people between the ages of 25 and 65 came up with this; 7% still use the print Yellow Pages and only 2% prefer the print yellow pages over the internet. The print yellow pages are going to be unused in 4-6 years!

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