This Article Captures YP ‘PR Problem’

This AP piece (appearing on Forbes.com) perfectly illustrates the yellow pages’ PR problem. Here are the operative graphs:

Neg Norton, president of the Yellow Pages Association, believes yellow pages help all ages, from the hipster looking for his next tattoo to a grandmother shopping for a wheelchair. After all, Norton said, if your boiler breaks on a frigid January morning, would you rather cull through millions of Google links or quickly scan the “P” page for a plumber?

But consumers like Hannah Woodbury, a 23-year-old married mother of one from Augusta, Ga., say the yellow pages just don’t work.

“I use the Internet for absolutely everything,” said Woodbury. “It’s fast and it gives instant results.”

“The Internet”? Yellow pages are on the Internet but that’s not mentioned here (although RHD CEO Dave Swanson does higher up in the piece).

The reporter wants to tell a story of yellow pages (here print) vs. the Internet (read: Google). The YP industry needs to lead with Internet and tell a multi-platform story that includes mobile (to overcome the “old media” image of print) and make the case that print is still effective to reach those not online (or not online right now).

Update: I’m not trying to imply anything about the YPA or the folks at Young & Associates here. I’m saying something about public/media perceptions and the way that YP is being portrayed as a print only medium in contexts such as these notwithstanding Dave Swanson’s comments in the article.

7 Responses to “This Article Captures YP ‘PR Problem’”

  1. Steve Says:

    I once had ‘Yellow Pages’ as part of my web site name. The site (still) is a pure play vertical web directory (no print). I kept telling people that ‘Yellow Pages’ is a business model, just deployed on the web.

    Never-the-less, the sales calls were met with “Yellow Pages is expensive and we don’t do Yellow Pages – (dial tone)”. We were doomed.

    Have since changed the name (now ‘Search’, not ‘Yellow Pages’), folks receiving the sales calls want to talk. We are on our way.

    Bottom line, after holding out for Yellow Pages to be understood by the search engine user, I gave in to user opinion, and it was as a smart change for my business.

    Steve

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    That’s an interesting point and goes to the “flexibility” of the “yellow pages” brand itself. What you’re arguing in a way is that the brand isn’t capable of doing what I’m suggesting — being positioned as a mutli-platform medium. That’s an empirical and/or focus group question. But you may be correct.

  3. Scott Says:

    Even if the yellow page industry “fixes” its PR problem and people think of it as a multiplatform medium, that doesn’t change the fact that YP companies do not enjoy the monopoly they do in print in these other mediums. No matter how you cut it, this is a very big problem for these businesses and the same thing that has plagued newspapers. Most traditional local media companies had monopolies on the local consumer and advertiser and that led to certain economics for these businesses that are no longer available in a digital world where distribution costs are essentially zero.

  4. troy Says:

    At the risk of being hash, YPA and most of the yellowpages executives are in a fortress mentiality. Like the Democrats of the past, they are letting others define them and have no vision to the future. It’s like the GM executives in the past looking out the window in Detroit and seeing everybody driving American cars and thinking ” I don’t see too many Japanese car around here”. Meanwhile in California…

  5. Tim Cohn Says:

    Steve’s comments are interesting in that SMB’s would consider Yellow Pages expensive.
    I think the subtext of his market’s response is that in the eyes of SMBs – Yellow Pages no longer deliver commensurate value for their price.

    I believe Troy is also correct in his assessment of Yellow Pages executives and other incumbent monopolists who through market disruption have had their heads handed to them.

    For the most part, those type of industries don’t attract personalities predisposed to embracing or accepting change.

  6. troy Says:

    R.H. Donnelley Executives to Discuss State of Yellow Pages Industry at 2008 Yellow Pages Association Conference and Exhibition.

    I wonder if they are just going to convince each other that things are not that bad or embrace eating your own young.

  7. Conversation with the YPA’s Neg Norton « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Neg Norton, head of the YPA, and I had a quick chat to clarify some issues arising from my earlier post about the industry’s “PR problem.” Norton said that the YPA presented a […]

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