Yellow Pages Environmental Forum

Anti-Small Business Behavior & Elections

Yes, there are other voices in the industry that clearly understand how absurd some of the commentary has been on the whole opt-out discussion, as well as the totally anti-small business politics that local legislators have launched in San Francisco & Seattle.

One such voice is Dick Larkin who writes the TheCommando newsletter which focuses on small business.  His most recent summary carrying the title of “The election didn’t solve this” outlines the key issues and misstatements in a clear, concise, yet powerfully review: #yp

For example:

The thing that the politicians miss is that directories drive substantial local business activity, and curtailing directories would suppress the local economy.

Let’s hope (an overused word these past few years) that the 99% of those who understand the value of the print directories, and the millions of small businesses that use the products to promote their businesses, can help change (another totally abused word) those local legislators that don’t get it and are bowing to a small group.

As Dick suggested:

I’d love to see exactly how Senator Yee spent his campaign funds and what measures he took to ensure that he did not print, mail, or distribute his campaign message to San Francisco residents who were not interested in hearing from him.

Now that would be a real useful opt-out program. The volume of crap I received during this last election was easily 2x the volume of paper used in the local directories that I receive once a year.  But somehow groups lead by Seattle City Councilman O’Brien are more focused on the 3% of the waste stream (their calculations, not mine) that they say (EPA pegs it at just .3%) print directories are causing.

But I’m sorry, we’re talking about politicians.  They get to play by a separate set of rules don’t they?




AARP to Fight Request in Florida to Stop White Pages

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on September 8, 2010
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Isn’t this an usually twist in the effort be more eco-oriented.

AT&T is among several telephone companies that have been asking the local Public Service Commission’s (PSC) which regulate the utilities for a change to regulations with REQUIRE them to send all home-telephone customers a new White Pages every year.  The change would end the annual “automatic delivery” of residential white pages each year.  Instead residents would need to ask for them.  The change makes a lot of sense as the white pages phone books are not being used as frequently as they once were with the availability of operator assisted/411 type services and online directories.  You would also think that such a move should please those paper book haters who believe any directory is a source of waste.

The interesting turn is that the AARP in Florida is now fighting such a change in Florida (link to article) saying that:

“The White Pages contain important contact information, such as phone numbers for doctors’ offices and pharmacies,” says Leslie Spencer, AARP Florida Associate State Director for Advocacy. “It’s one thing to say that anyone can find the same information online. But it’s another for some people to actually find information online as easily as they can find it in a phone book.”

Some people – particularly Floridians of modest means – may not have Internet access, she adds.

So finding information online isn’t always easy?  Really?

This isn’t the first time an issue like this has come up before.  We commented back in July of 2009, that when a similar measure was implemented in Cleveland, AT&T’s customer service lines were flooded with callers who wanted a book.  That blog really twisted the knickers of the paper haters as you can see in the comments area for that blog.

So now will those same paper haters boycott AARP???  Grandma will not be happy….

Setting the record straight

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on August 5, 2010
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It can be frustrating for those that work in the industry to see posts like this recent one:  Get 100000 Canadians to opt out of the Yellow Pages – George Dearing

Not because this one person doesn’t want a book.  That’s not a problem.  If someone is among the less than 5% of people who have issues with a print book, fine, publishers all have opt-out programs now so they won’t send you one in the future.  But more so because of the ongoing perception that there is a direct correlation between a printed phone book and the loss of a tree somewhere on the planet.  The fact is that isn’t true, and I’ve written about it many times – here, here, and here are just a few examples.

But I don’t blame the public for their lack of understanding, I blame the industry.  How would someone know about how recycled white material, wood chips, and even some good old fashion trash are the sources of the content/fiber that makes up the pages of the a phone book – we’ve never bothered to tell anyone about it which is really perplexing at a time every industry is shouting about its environmental efforts.

I’m not sure why the yellow pages industry has been so shy about promoting where the source of its paper comes from, the recycling programs they coordinate, and even the local economic value they bring to the communities they publish in.   Perhaps it is an old hangover from the original one telephone company/old AT&T days.  The directory operations were always this strange non-telco unit that most of the senior managers in the telecom based company never really understood, but which generated a lot of revenue for them.  It was always one of the biggest, successful brand images in their local market.  So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

When I see these type of posts and can provide information, most reasonable people like George will acknowledge they were unaware of the process, are surprised, even reassured to see what really happens.  The few obtuse paper jihadists, whose comments you will  see sprinkled all through this and other blogs, well, no matter what factual content you provide them with it’s never enough for them  — the industry has rigged the numbers — we are still delivering to vacant houses — no one wants the books — or any of a dozen other rambling rants.  And then should another new book arrive at their door, my God, it becomes a major affront on their space and civil liberties.

But once again, I’m not sure we can totally blame them for their responses.  In a way we have conditioned them that no matter what they say or do, no matter how incorrect their commentary, the industry seems to sit back and ask for more.  It then usually comes down to having to meet with a local legislator who has a small handful of people complaining to their office on a regular basis to set the record straight.

I thought we were an advertising media.  Why aren’t we telling our story more frequently, more forcefully, more accurately so the greater public get to hear it??

CA Legislation Is Unnecessary

It’s a law makers superficial solution to everything — pass another bill that sounds good when you look at the title.  But when you dig into it, that’s when you see that if makes no sense at all.

Sen. Yee a California state legislator who represents a heavily urban part of San Francisco which of course has a supposed hip digitally-savvy population has been trying to score political points with the handful of people who believe the print Yellow Pages are no longer needed.  Yee’s bill, Senate Bill 920, was introduced in February and after the second reading and some amendments, has made it to an Appropriations Committee.

But don’t assume that his efforts represent the majority of his district’s true feelings.  As noted in a recent Daily Democrat article:

“Don’t they have something better to do?” asked Betty Rushton, who has lived in Vacaville for 20 years. “We’re going to hell in a handbasket, and they’re worried about this?”

Rushton and her pals agreed that the thick tomes are integral to their lives.

“I still use my phone book all the time,” said Kate Winkle, also a 20-year resident. “I don’t have the Internet.”

Despite the potential to impact jobs and further loss of tax revenues, YPA said it best in a recent blog when they noted a strong list of reasons why they think the bill is bad for Californians:

  • We already offer opt-out programs in California.  Anyone who would like to reduce or stop directory delivery can visit to start that process.  The state’s government does not need to spend its very limited resources on creating new programs when they already exist.
  • Regulation puts our industry – and our advertisers – at a disadvantage.  We are part of the larger advertising industry that caters to small businesses, which includes radio, newspapers, and the Internet.  It is anticompetitive and unfair to legislate one form of advertising but not others.
  • The proposed legislation includes very specific language that regulates how information is displayed on our very own products.  Directory publishers have made phenomenal progress over the last year in making opt-out information more prominent and easily accessible in the directory and on covers.  But the directory cover remains a coveted place for advertisers and community groups, and the state government should not diminish the opportunities for them to secure space there.
  • Once someone opts out, how long should that address be on our do-not-deliver lists?  This bill says forever, and we disagree with that.  Given the turnover in real estate, we think it’s appropriate for a publisher to have an opportunity to re-deliver to an address after a certain number of years.  The opportunity for new residents to opt-out will always be available.
  • Yellow Pages publishers employ thousands of Californians and contribute significant taxes to the state budget.  Any legislation that puts that in jeopardy through unnecessary and anticompetitive regulation is bad for California.

Yee and other local legislators won’t admit (or may not even know) that research continues to show that the books are still heavily used.  Even in a highly fragmented media market with many options, the usage of print directories across many demographics is still high, especially in the rural and suburban markets, with older consumers (note to businesses — these are the people with the higher disposable income), for use in those ongoing life events, and in many emergency situations.

I want to assume that Mr. Yee’s intentions are good and aren’t just a ply to win more political points. And who doesn’t want to look for ways to help consumers and protect the environment. But the industry has already taken steps FOR SOME TIME NOW to be more eco-oriented.  This is another unneeded bill with real impacts that will cost the state, kill jobs, and impact many small businesses, at a time when none of those groups can afford it.

Kill this bill!!!

Louisiana Kids Recycle Old Directories

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on October 5, 2009

Good to see the effort from Tioga Junior High School students in the Rapides Parish schools in Louisiana, who collected 5,884 books for the annual telephone book recycling collection program.  Link to article:

We can get books recycled if we can increase awareness of the recycling programs in local communities, especially those that don’t have curbside recycling programs.

Industry Usage Data Released

The Yellow Pages Association (YPA) recently released new data that shows that Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) experienced double digital growth in 2008.  According to comScore, Internet Yellow Pages searches grew 22% from 3.8 billion to 4.6 billion, in 2008.

“The growth in Internet Yellow Pages usage in 2008 emphasizes the increased trend toward local content on the Internet,” said Yellow Pages Association president Neg Norton. “Consumers are seeking highly specialized, localized business listings when and where they want it and they are increasingly finding it on our online platforms.”

Even with a tough economic climate for all advertising, overall usage of Yellow Pages products (print and Internet) totaled 16.9 billion references in 2008 compared to 17.2 billion in 2007 – a 2% overall decline. The print Yellow Pages references in 2008 were 12.3 billion compared to 13.4 billion in 2007.

Given the trends in all advertising media, the overall results have be viewed as somewhat positive.  Of course the Yellow Pages are not immune to the advertiser cutbacks that have been ravaging other media such as newspapers, local TV, and even out of home.  But clearly the impact on Yellow Pages has been smaller than many of the other advertising media.  And an 8% drop in print usage is hardly a  sign that the products are “dead” or will be dying next week as some would want you to believe.  We still talking about people turned to those print directories more than 12 billion times last year at a point where they are in an active, ready-to-buy mode.  Hence, the books still remain an important source for consumers during these tough economic times.

It comes as no surprise that the online local search products are the most vibrant, growing items now.  But even that growth points towards the positive transformation publishers are going through in a the move from a one product media solution to becoming a true multi-channel consultative advertising solutions provider.

As we have commented to several financial entities — don’t confuse the debt issues at some of the publishers as an indication of the strength of the overal industry.  It still is the best advertising ROI program a small business can get anywhere.

Appreciating Intellectual Honesty

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on February 23, 2009

It was refreshing to see this recent piece that at least restored my hope that even print Yellow Page atheists, as impassioned about their cause, at least can sometimes be intellectually honest about valid results put in front of them, such as this analysis from Ian Andrew Bell in his The Yellow Pages: Adapt or die article. Mr. Bell presented all sides of the discussion but nicely articulated the frustration behind those online only pundits that decry the printed products as “spam”. Check this out:

“….But unfortunately, the Yellow Pages business is not yet the death march that the Web 2.0 kids have hoped it would become.  … This may say a lot more about the new media of web, telephony, and mobile and their capabilities than it does about the old medium of schlepping giant books door-to-door for punters to thumb through.

For one thing, the Yellow Pages is still the number one tool used by consumers to find local business; the industry continues to forecast growth in the bellwether US marketplace from $10.3 billion in 1996 to a projected $18 billion by 2010 — yes, some of their revenue comes from online, but that number is pegged at between 25% and one-third.

Oh.  And people still (gasp!) turn to their Yellow Pages more frequently than anything else for finding products and services that are local to them. According to research released a couple of months ago from Knowledge Networks, nearly half (48%) of consumers report print Yellow Pages as the resource they turn to most often for information on a business or service, and more than three-quarters (77%) use the print Yellow Pages overall….”

We all know the industry in the throes of a conversation where as the needs of the customers it serves – small and mid-sized business, change/evolve to also include online advertising as a bigger and bigger component of their marketing plans, the industry will be there to help them in this evolution.

But that evolution doesn’t mean the print Yellow Pages aren’t also going to be a key ongoing component of that marketing plan, no matter how much some people despise their very existence.  Get over it.

Marketing A Big Challenge for Small Business

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on December 22, 2008

A majority of small business owners believe that generating (and retaining) customers is the toughest marketing challenge they face especially in these tough economic times.

The just released “Small Business Marketing Poll”  from the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of small business owners say they use only internal resources to assist in their marketing efforts, while nearly three in five (59.1%) small business owners say generating new customers/retaining current customers is the toughest marketing challenge they face.

The national study, conducted by global marketing research firm Issues and Answers, included 200 telephone and 200 online interviews with owners of small businesses (one to 50 employees), asking about their marketing and advertising habits.

From YPA’s press release:

“A majority of small business owners are not asking for outside help when it comes to marketing and advertising, so many may not realize that there are ample resources available at little or no charge” said Neg Norton, president, Yellow Pages Association. “And in times like these, when every dollar spent must be justified, and when winning and retaining customers is crucial, we feel that getting a professional opinion simply makes good business sense.”

How do we really search for businesses?

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on December 19, 2008
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When to comes to searching for a business or service, every thing from restaurants to landscape contractors to tire dealers, people use a multimedia strategy with both “old” and new media, based on a recent report from Knowledge Networks.

In results presented from a poll conducted in the spring among respondents age 13 and older, the report says 77% turn to print Yellow Pages. Yep, despite what you may be hearing those print phone books continue to be a preferred local shopping resource. In fact 48% said this is the source they use most often.

Of course online can be also be a valuable source when you are “browsing” for information.  Search engines were the second most popular information source with 49% saying they use them to find a business or service, and 21% indicated they the Web is the most-often-used source.

The only other resources to register double digit usage in the survey were Internet Yellow Pages – IYP’s  (36%, 13% used most often), free or fee-based 411 (30%, 8% used most often) and newspapers (19% , but only  2% used most often).

The study also shoots holes in the popular perception that people are roaming the streets with new web-enabled mobile devices in hand seeking those sames products or services.  Currently just 5% included “mobile search” among their sources, with just 1% saying they use mobile search most often.

Yellow Pages Industry Adding Mobile to Its Product List

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on December 5, 2008
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YPA President Neg Norton was intereviewed by Mobile Marketing this week (click here).  It’s an interview you should check out as it shows the range of media advertising products that publishers are bringing to small and midsized businesses:

What role will mobile play for the Yellow Pages industry?
Mobile fits the Yellow Pages strategy of making information available anytime, anywhere.

Accessed shopping guide or price comparison services at least once per month. Source: comScore M:Metrics

Yellow Pages

Additionally, we believe wireless access affords us the opportunity to attract new customers beyond those who purchase print and Internet advertising.

In a related story, in this weeks YP Talk newsletter we also provided an article on a key industry supplier – AdFare, who is working with publishers to help them repuprose the video ads they have been adding to their Internet ads to also work in a mobile environemnt (click here)

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