Opt-In WPs Will Lead to Same for YP

From this weekend’s NY Times:

Leland Yee, a California state senator representing San Francisco, has promised to introduce a bill to the Legislature in January that would prohibit telephone companies from delivering white pages unless customers specifically ask to receive them.

Here’s what Yee’s site says:

According to the Product Stewardship Institute, telephone books represent significant tonnage in the waste stream (660,000 tons per year).  Local governments currently bear costs to recycle and/or dispose of phone books, and some areas experience limited or absent opportunities to recycle.  According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, not publishing a phone book reduces greenhouse gases by about three times as much as recycling (relative to land filling).

The AT&T spokesperson quoted in the article approves of opt-in white pages but references usage in defense of mandatory distribution of YP: 

As for the Yellow Pages, their fate is more secure because they are still seen as important for generating business.

“People reference the yellow pages 3.3 billion times a year,” [AT&T spokesman Fletcher] Cook said. “There’s still a high volume of usage.”

If Opt-in WP (a non-revenue-generating product in the US) legislation passes, it will set up a precedent for a future opt-in treatment of yellow pages.

The future argument will be: those that truly want it can get it and those that don’t won’t have to. The logic of that will be hard for the industry to combat given the opt-in precedent that will have been set by WP. Consumers and politicians won’t care about the revenue side of things. 

YP will have to do lots of aggressive PR about how it helps SMBs and the local community to combat the environmental/waste arguments.

Who disagrees with me?

9 Responses to “Opt-In WPs Will Lead to Same for YP”

  1. Ed Kohler Says:

    I think you’ve nailed it. The majority of yellow pages delivered in my town, Minneapolis, are never used. Why? Because we receive three yellow pages per year at every residence. Opt-out lists are slowly being adopted, but are routinely ignored with no consequence to the print yellow pages spammers.

    This is the type of behavior that leads to legislation.

  2. juliemarg Says:

    Random, ordinary people tell me that they hate getting so many yellow pages every time I mention my previous employment in yp sales. I believe as many people would opt out of yellow pages as signed up for the no call list.

  3. steve haar Says:

    as a recovering attorney, what do you think about the freedom of speech angle on this? It is a business’ right to print what it wants. What is the legal foundation…do environmental costs out weigh freedom to publish (speech)? If municipalities’ expenses in dealing with this are too high, can the same be applied to the cost of crowd control and clean up when applied to the right to assemble?…

    While not big on this delivery of print WP that I can get online, I can see this as the prelude that has to be fought in order for pubs to protect YP.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Free speech is an interesting angle (as a challenge to the Yee law). Haven’t thought it through though I think the telcos won’t pursue this; they want to get ride of WP because there’s no revenue attached.

    I don’t think they’re necessarily thinking clearly about how this precedent would affect them later when people start calling for opt-in YP.

  5. New Online Business Ideas | Journal of Online Business Says:

    […] Opt-In WPs Will Lead to Same for YP « Screenwerk […]

  6. SHobbs Says:

    We in the YP industry are aware of the difficult challenge of communicating on the issues of WP Opt-In vs. YP Opt-Out. However, the stats (as provided by KN/SRI) support the significant difference between consumer usage of residential listings and business advertising.

    85% of adults in the US use YP directories at least once a year and they look at an average of 4.6 ads. Of more importance to our 2.9 million advertisers is the fact that 86% of users end up making a purchase and 40% of users are new customers. We’ve found that when we can engage legislators in a thoughtful dialogue and explain how dependent most small businesses are on their YP ads, we have been successful in preventing restrictive ordinances.

    We’ll continue to work with the Product Stewardship Institute, consumers and others to ensure that we can regulate our industry and encourage those who choose not to receive YP directories go to http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com and contact the publishers in their area to stop delivery. Delivering a book to someone who doesn’t want it doesn’t serve anyone. For more information about what the industry is doing to minimize our environmental impact, go to our site at http://www.ypassociation.org.

  7. Dan Says:

    The bill doesn’t ban the white pages, it just requires you to opt-in to receiving them. Currently, the State of California requires you to opt-out, which results in many people unaware of that option receiving a biannual pile of worthless paper. The white pages will still be available for anyone who wants to ask for them.

  8. John Donaldson Says:

    I’m glad to see this action and hope the flow of large useless books on my doorstep ceases. In my opinion white pages are out of date before they are printed so I don’t refer to them and throw them out the moment they arrive. Yellow pages should be put online where I can more easily access and search them, and they would more likely be up to date.

    Publishing these large, heavy, out of date books is a huge waste of resources. The industry needs to catch up with the times and go online.

  9. Trotter Says:

    To be fair, on the whole “1st Amendment Issue”

    Yeah, these folks can publish whatever they want. Issue is, it costs them a lot of money to publish these and make no actual money on it. Why? Because most states require companies to provide this as a free service for all land-line customers. So, isn’t the current law more restrictive then the proposal?

    And as far as the slippery slope argument goes, it’s interesting but dangerous.

    I don’t know if YP will have that much PR work to do. Politicians care about revenue and YP still make quite a bit of money for the telecomms.

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