« The US Air Force: Armed with social media | Main | Need a keynote speaker? »

December 17, 2008


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Yellow Pages anyone?:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Leo Wurschmidt

It really is a shame. I know countless companies who are talked into buying slots in the YP's.

I have not used Yellow Pages in years and they just take up valuable space on the bookshelf.

Talk about an outdated system that is holding on for dear life.

Maranda Gibson

I actually had this thought the other day in my office building when the big bags sat outside for days until they were finally gathered up.

I only use the yellow pages when...my power is out, but that's only to demand that the situation be rectified quickly so that I may continue to web browse.

Laura Bergells

I'm with you.

A few years ago, I found a Yellow Book in my front yard.

In Spring.

Oh, it was delivered in December, all right. Laid 'neath 3 feet of snow for 4 months before I pitched it.

My parents and partner -- they're another story. They screeched at me when I threw the books away. To me, they're senseless clutter. Difficult to navigate, too!

Partner keeps Yellow Books in his car. Wants another in the office. Never mind the mobile phone. Never mind the GPS with POI. Never mind GOOG-411. He's old school.

Parents aren't web savvy -- they're in their 80's.

For everyone else I know -- they're on your side. An annoying waste of precious resources in the internet and mobile age.

Shaun Dakin

There is a group trying to do something about this.

Yellow Pages Go Green


Shaun Dakin

David Esrati

Anyone under 30- never.
However, some sectors still live by them: drain cleaners, plumbers, dentists, chiropractors, lawyers, bail bondsman- etc.
The problem in many markets- is there are now multiple "yellow pages"- and people can't tell the difference.
It would be cheaper and more efficient for them to supply a phone interface than print all that paper- but, just like Newspapers- they don't get it.
I've tried moving my clients out of the YP- it's difficult.
It's still surprising how many businesses haven't signed up for Google local- I wrote instructions here: http://www.thenextwave.biz/tnw/?p=410

Bill Gammell

It's sad, but as I look at my own bookshelf here in the office I see that my YP is from 2006, but I probably haven't cracked open the YP in nearly 4 years. I think I keep in on my bookshelf for nostalgic reasons -something to tell the grand kids.

I just hope that everyone is recycling and that years from now were not left with YPs and old AOL disks in our land fills.

Cindy Youngblood

I do agree David, in fact it amazes me that there are several "Yellow Pages" still in circulation. In my community we get the Yellow Book the original "Real" Yellow Pages and the Community Phone Book. Remember when it was just the Yellow Pages. Most of my new books go straight to recycling.
I have an online guide for my community where a business can be listed absolutley free and advertising is pennies compared to print. www.goclaycounty.com
I plan to share your post in my next newsletter.

George Bounacos

Great piece and very appropriate. Many jurisdictions are now legislating the matter by forcing an opt-in.

A company I worked for once had a great solution for this issue. Rest assured the yellow pages folks don't want to spend money on production and distribution when the books are only used as a booster seat or as doorstop.

We made CDs available that allowed users in large companies to pull the information off their networks. Win-win-win, especially for the telcom manager who didn't have directory assistance charges with a phone book on everyone's desk and the facilities manager who didn't have to distribute hundreds of phone books.

Not surprisingly, there is a generational split here akin to what the auto clubs and pay phone providers went through in the 1980s and 1990s. A directory actually has old direct mail-style "tracking numbers" - phone numbers that automatically forward to the actual number but allow companies to do an ROI calculation.

And frankly, if the ROI in certain industries makes sense, then anyone will pay the charges. From talking to many Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) providers recently, most realize they need to migrate to online and are doing so. But they are not going to give a print margin up where it makes sense.

Just like SEM today or any marketing effort ever, when the ROI is there, so is the medium.

That said, none of our clients advertise in the books because we make the ROI more compelling online.


Jennifer Shaheen

I have been telling my clients for years the printed version of the Yellow Pages is dead. I had clients drop their ads completely and focus their efforts on web efforts and their sales increased dramatically.

I do have clients in some industries who get leads from superpages.

Personally I feel in the green conscience world we should be able to unsubscribe from receiving these books.

Brandon Chesnutt

I actually went to an SM workshop recently that used this very same analogy.

While I see the YPs as nothing but giant paperweights, I know my grandparents couldn't live without them. While they have a computer and are actually pretty Web savvy, they still use the YP for searching local professional services.

So, maybe the rule of thumb is "if your customer base is over 65, the YPs might still be relevant?"

If you're outside of that audience, your ad dollars are probably better spent elsewhere.


I didn't even know that Yellow Pages were still being made. I remember those from my childhood, when every semester there was a new edition, and i spent hours reading it, just for fun.
Now i spend hours on the 'net.

Margarida Godinho

I think no one still using Yellow Pages. The production it’s a total waste of money and paper….
The Yellow Pages books are used, in Portugal, for that: http://capeiaarraiana.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/asae-castanhas01a.jpg .
It’s the best use that it can have. But, unfortunely it’s forbidden know.

Chuck Smith

What's really interesting to me is how the Yellow Pages folks are trying to just convert their existing books to an online version at their web sites. Seems like it's time for a paradigm shift that allows advertisers to insert video, audio, PDFs, etc. into their listings. And, they should be able to update whenever they want.

My guess is that Google will be taking that business away in the next 2 or 3 years.

Grant Griffiths

I really think the standard yellow pages is going to go the way of the typewriter. I know from my own personal experience, once I started blogging to promote my professional service firm, I was able to drop all my yellow page ads. What I found was the consumers who were my target, were using the internet at a rate of 75% to find a provider.

By providing answers to their search request, I was able to generate many more calls and emails from potential clients then I ever could with a yellow page ad. And being on the web, puts the small business or small firm on very similar footing to the "big boys" who have the huge marketing budgets to pay for the full page yellow page ads. There was no way to compete with that.

Having a web presence puts you in the position of being the bigger firms competitor instead.

Utilizing a blog for example enables you to carry on a conversation with your target audience too. Try that with the yellow pages. All you can do there is put in an ad and hope and pray someone will actually call you. You can be proactive in your marketing efforts with a blog and be more "In Tune" to what your market and previous customers are saying.

Great post as always. Thanks!!!

Dianna Huff


I used the yellow pages last week to find a tree service. Due to the ice storm, we had no power (and no Internet), and we had two trees whose very large branches ended up on our power lines.

Although I do most of my searching online, I still keep a Verizon yellow page directory on hand -- especially for finding local contractors. Many of them do not have Websites -- as I posted on my blog: http://tinyurl.com/5msrwd

Lauren Grunstein

The other day I was walking by the mailboxes in my apartment building and saw a HUGE stack of yellow page books. The first thing I thought was- Why would anyone use these!? In this day and age, I think the only person using the Yellow pages is my grandma.

David Meerman Scott

Interesting that several people commented that they use Yellow Pages when there is a power outage. Never thought of that.

Walter Wimberly

Some services still live by them, and I've heard of them getting up to 80% of their business from them (septic/plumbing, electricians, and lawyers, come to mind - they also tend to have horrible to non-existent websites).

Where I live, we get 3 different yellow pages (Bellsouth, Embarq, and Verizon). However, Verizon, due to reducing advertisers and the cost of printing and distributing, has recently shut down several of their yellow pages, including our area - so we should be down to two different books now. :)

Tobias Singer

In Germany they don't send you the Yellow Pages, you just get a notification that you can pick them up at your local post office. That way at least the shipping costs are lower.
I know my parents still use the YPs, but I can't remember the last time I really used them.


The yellow pages we received in AZ made very good weights that balanced our used book shelf. Plus the cats seemed to enjoy chewing on them.

I also don't remember the last time I used a website, and though I don't think I would use Twitter to look up a pizza place who delivers, perhaps they still offer a service to those who are not plugged in.

My parents just the other day looked up a number for a marine supply store. They used the Yellow Pages.

Ari Herzog

Do you remember those big books that combined Yellow pages, White pages, and Blue pages (for government listings)?

Now I use Google, Google, and uhh, Google. Or USA.gov.

Tim 'Gonzo' Gordon

I used the Yellow Pages last week to get the phone number of my mechanic. I couldn't remember the name of the shop because I don't go often. But it was a rarity.

When I start work at my current place of employment (I'm VP of Marketing and Sales) my boss made it clear that we would never use the Yellow Pages for advertising for two reasons: it's not our market (we cover the Western US) and he didn't think people used YP anymore. This from a guy who still is amazed that his PC is hooked to the web and sees computers as a necessary evil but would prefer to go back to pencil and paper if only the world would follow.

Only other complaint: in our area we have about 4 companies delivering phone books to us every year.


Research was released last week that showed that based on polling conducted in the spring among respondents age 13 and older, the report says 77 percent turn to print Yellow Pages. Forty-eight percent of those polled said this is the source they use most often. Search engines were the runner-up, with 49 percent saying they use them to seek out a business or service, including 21 percent for whom this is the most-often-used source. The only other resources to register in double digits in the survey were Internet Yellow Pages (36 percent, 13 percent most often), free or fee-based 411 (30 percent, 8 percent most often) and newspapers (19 percent, 2 percent most often).

For all the talk about people roaming the streets with mobile devices in hand as they seek stores and restaurants, just 5 percent of respondents included "mobile search" among their sources, including 1 percent who said it's the source they use most often.


The only thing I've used my phone books for in the last ten years is to prop up my monitor because I'm tall and need to have the screen ergonomically correct. Otherwise, the damn things are hard to read (even when the power is out) and annoying to have around.

Tim Martin

Indeed what a waste, both from an environmental and an advertiser perspective... check out my

'The Yellow Pages Takes a Beating'

short video at: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=0lZOh26d1iQ


I had this similar argument with my uncle who was negotiating with a yellow pages guy for a lower rate for his advertisement. He was telling the guy that he doesn't receive even one lead from their yellow pages, then why should he pay more.

Later I asked him why he wasn'ts to put his ad there at all. His answer was: "Because all my competitors have their names listed on it".

David Meerman Scott

Kenc - Please point us to that research online so we can see it for ourselves. Thanks

Judy Peterson

I agree - a waste of resources. Just give it a little time though and the government will bail out the yellow pages ;-)lol

Justin Levy

Perfectly timed post David! I had a similar thought the other day when I came home and found a stack 12-15 Yellow Pages outside of my apartment building. They sat there for days on end until they just disappeared. My guess is that maintenance threw them away.

I can't remember the last time I opened up a Yellow Pages book to look up a phone number, or even better yet, a menu for a restaurant.

As a business owner as well, we don't advertise or even pay for a listing any longer in the Yellow Pages. I would rather use that money to invest in a better video camera for creating our weekly video series, or buying a web banner on a popular local events website, etc.


Hello David, It seems most of all here already put aside their Yellow pages of simply just ignore the existence. My last seeing YP was in 2004. Now everything just "Googling"

Mark Witzling

Great to see this line of conversation. Another discussion of the value of the Yellow Pages can be found on Mahttp://marketingwitz.blogspot.com/2008/10/yellow-pages-romi-versus-online.html#linksrketingWitz at


Everything just "knows" that "few" people still use the Yellow Pages. I would really suggest getting some data to back that assumption up.

Earlier this year I asked an electrician who was doing some work on my house how he feels about Yellow Pages ads. He finds them invaluable, because there are still a lot of people who use them. He asks new customers how they heard of him, and it's frequently his YP ad.

Online marketers: you are not your customers. There are businesses for whom YP ads are dumb. There are others for which they pay off.

Personally, I never open the things, and I think receiving them should be opt-in or at least easy-opt-out, but lots of people depend on them.


Couldn't agree with you more!

What's more disconcerting to me is the low % of yellow page advertisers accurately tracking their ad's performance (and a YP provided tracking number is not enough).

While I don't think anyone with high-speed Internet access would ever pick up a phone book, there may still be value YP advertising in rural markets. But, the only way to know for sure and to make smarter marketing decisions all around is to track metrics like: cost per call, cost per lead, quality of lead, and web visits produced from your ads.

Margaret Davis

As the owner of a small business I got smart this year and dropped my yellow page advertising in favor of the internet. I just finished David's book and this is my first comment on a blog site. Thank you David for the insights in your book!

David Meerman Scott

John, My blog post was to illustrate that in my office building filled with lawyers, psychologists, architects, and executive search firms, nobody wanted their copy of the Yellow Book and left them on the table in the lobby. My "evidence" is the photo.

These are not Web marketing experts, but professional service firms.


I've got a friend in Sales at Yellow Pages and asked him for his thoughts: "Thanks for sharing. I’m sure Mr. Scott is brilliant in his area of expertise but...when it comes to directory advertising...but a small dose of research might help him distinguish reality from his observation based on a handful of offices surrounding his. A quote directly from him “But worst of all, what a shame for the companies still paying to be listed in a directory that very few people use” is perhaps the best example of a person who isn’t allowing facts to get in the way of his own opinion. Based on the most recent data available (not just an opinion I formed one day after I saw an unused pile or directories some where) is that directory advertising is a multi-billion dollar advertising medium that, for AT&T clients, returns an average return on investment of 13 dollars for every 1 dollar spent to advertisers. This statistic is actually based on “metered ads” that are tracked and documented."

I generally agree that YP use is declining but, at least in a few cases, they are coming up with some innovative advertising solutions for businesses.


The "Research" posted above (interestingly enough) excluded "cell only" households which would eliminate over 30% of 18-25 year olds and 37% of Single Never-Marrieds.

We live in a digital age where the YP industry is all but obsolete.

Though Google does a terrific job of bringing the information to the people....smaller more focused directories that offer LOCAL CONTENT are quickly replacing the out-dated 'online' and 'paper' directories.


This is the local directory site in our area that seems to have figured it out.

Manish Kumar

i am agree with you and i think online directory is the best option for find everything

N Lange

Can opt-out of Yellow Pages in Canada here: http://delivery.ypg.com/delivery/

Robert Johannesburg

People definitely still use them (whether they be old-school or just old), so maybe we shouldn't do away with them all together just yet, but printings should be smaller and only delivered to those who want them. Less waste will be generated, which is better for our environment. Another way businesses can help the environment is to have a professional check out their HVAC systems and repair any inefficiencies, decreasing both the company's carbon footprint and energy bill. ( http://www.ocresidentialservices.com )

Max Doyle

A forgotten tool! Its all about the web now, I have all my contact info on online directories.


The yellow pages always help me out so much. One thing I'm struggling to find is a security guard in calgary. Do you know of a good one?

The comments to this entry are closed.


Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

follow me

David Meerman Scott books

I want to speak at your next event!


David Meerman Scott e-books

David's iPhone and iPad apps

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 12/2004