Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why phone books will probably keep getting printed

I recently mused about phone books and why they seem to stack up unnecessarily in my apartment building lobby.

Coincidentally enough, the Wall Street Journal printed an article about the businesses that publish phone books (sub req'd): R.H. Donnelley Corp. and Idearc Inc. These companies have an Internet presence, but that's not where they make their money:

Donnelley, which operates, receives less than 2% of its revenue from the Internet, while Idearc, which owns, receives about 9%.
So despite the waste and the fact that so many people don't even crack them open, and despite the fact that Bill Gates recently said "yellow-page usage amongst people,...say, below 50, will drop to near zero over the next five years," physical phone books will probably continue to be printed for the forseeable future.



Ken C said...

Given Gates lack of accuracy on his recent prognostications, I’m surprised you would consider him a valuable source for predicting the future. But to your point, US adults referenced them over 15 billion times last year. And that’s just the print versions. 90% of all adults reference them at least once a year, 75% in a typical month, and 50+% on average month. How about on average 1.4X each week? And let’s remember that not everyone has Internet access to reference those online products you are talking about.

The VCR didn’t replace movie theaters, TV didn’t replace radio, and the Internet will NOT be replacing the printed Yellow Pages. It will supplement it.

But if you insist that the Internet is the way to go, who do you think is going to get all that neat stuff that is in those print books on to the Net so your Google search actually yields the results you really want??? It’s going be that same Yellow Pages sales rep also has a complete portfolio of local search and Internet based products that they can help small businesses get on the Net…..

Jonathan said...

Interesting stats, Ken; thanks for sharing. I'm not saying Gates is foolproof, but he's no dummy -- just another point to consider.

As someone who hasn't had the need to crack open a physical phone book in more than four years, I suppose I'm in the minority.

But that stack of phone books in my building lobby? It's not getting any smaller. So apparently I'm not alone...

Anonymous said...

Frankly comparing a yellow pages to things that we use to enjoy musicians,news,comedy etc. Doesn't make any sense.

Vanessa said...

I'm surprised that there is no opt out. I guess because they're "free" and people don't actually place an order. Maybe as green politics keeps gaining momentum... Or maybe they need someone to head such an initiative. *nudge*

Jonathan said...

How is it in Canada, Vanessa? Are there unused phone books piling up everywhere there as well?