Idearc Media Hurts Minneapolis Neighborhoods

A month ago – Labor Day to be specific – I snapped this photo of a rotting phone book from YellowBook on the front steps of this home on 6th St in the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

Old Phone Books

I then blogged about it under the title, Phone Books Destroy Neighborhoods.

So imagine how disappointed I was when I saw that same phone book sitting in front of that same house a month later.

Now, take that disappointment and double it, thanks to Idearc Media.

Why?

Because they dropped yet another phone book in front of this property. They left a Verizon Yellow Pages to rot right next to the rotting YellowBook.

Hawthorne Neighborhood Yellow Pages

Was it not clear to Idearc Media’s delivery person that they already had a phone book. Here’s a closer shot:

Hawthorne Neighborhood Yellow Pages

Take a peak inside:

Hawthorne Neighborhood Yellow Pages

Yes, that’s the same Verizon Yellow Pages spam from Idearc Media that I threw at their offices in Eagan.

What should be done about this?

Distributing marketing materials to clearly abandoned properties should be considered littering. We should start enforcing this by fining phone book distributors for each offense.

Phone book companies would prefer opt-out systems over opt-in. However, an opt-out system simply will not work to prevent distribution to abandoned properties since no one lives there to opt-out. Additionally, there is the ongoing problem caused by splintering phone book distribution, creating an ever-increasing burden on households who have to unsubscribe with each and every phone book distributor. Because of this, an opt-in policy where households must specifically request phone books will do much more good than an opt-out system.

In the mean time, I strongly encourage Idearc Media to send a representative to the next Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Committee meeting to formally apologize for littering abandoned properties in their neighborhood.

33 thoughts on “Idearc Media Hurts Minneapolis Neighborhoods”

  1. Not that I often come to IDEARC/Verizon’s defense, but you should check your facts before going off the deep end about something so silly. The book on the right hand side of your 2 phone books picture is a Yellow Book phone book, which is not published by or distributed for IDEARC. Yellow book is in fact IDEARC’s competitor and their book is supposed to be delivered in addition to IDEARCS. As to either delivering their books to an empty house, they have no way of knowing that to be the case and if you knew what little the delivery people made you would realize they aren’t going to spend much time judging whether a house is oiccupied or not.

  2. Hey Reuben, read the post a little closer. Ed clearly says the IDEARC book is sitting next to the Yellow Book, which doubles the number of yellow-page-like phone books sitting outside this abandoned house. Also, if a company has no way of knowing if a house is abandoned or not, why not err on the side of not littering, OR, instruct delivery employees NOT to deliver to houses where clearly phone books are not being picked up?

    It’s a good thing you don’t come to Verizon’s defense very often – you’re not very good at it.

  3. R. H. Donnelley, as I understand it, there are three print directory publishers spamming the Minneapolis market. Two, so far, have dropped books on the property listed above. When will your book drop?

    Would you leave a directory on a property that already has two rotting competing directories? Would your advertisers consider that valuable?

  4. Hey Ed,

    How ’bout we start a little viral campaign to collect yellow pages directories and phone books that are delivered to people that don’t want ’em – from all over the country – and then drop ’em off in a big pile in front of each of the publisher’s local offices? Kinda like what you did in your video.

    Bet we could get some media attention too…

  5. Luv to join your neighborhood fun, but maybe busy delivering phone books, Idearc is too busy fighting for its life, as some one posted, at less than a buck per sh to care about your ph book tossing party Good luck Rube

  6. Oh, oh, you say the phone book company has NO WAY OF KNOWING the house is vacant? How about the fact there is another phone book sitting there rotting in the rain and it hasn’t been cleaned up? That’s a pretty obvious indication of vacancy to any reasonable person, but obviously the phone book dumpers don’t care.

    Thanks for your help with this, Ed, and I’m really looking forward to next month’s Housing Committee meeting.

    http://adventuresofjohnnynorthside.blogspot.com/2008/10/fighting-phone-book-dumping-with-little.html

    Also, a thought: why should we go out of the way to return a specific class of phone books to the specific phone book company of origin? Do THEY take such care when they drop their yellow, papery dung on our doorsteps? I say pick the nearest phone book company and just take ALL THE PHONE BOOKS THERE.

    Dump ’em all, let Verizon sort ’em out!!!!

  7. Not to pick at the details, but Verizon has nothing to do with the Idearc phone books. They spun off the yellow pages and online yellow pages in the fall of 06′. Verizon has made numerous attempts to distance themselves from the fledgling company, but to no avail. Idearc, AT&T, Dex, YellowBook, and EZ to USE Book are all useless in my opinion though.

  8. John, I don’t know if this is the case everywhere, but the Idearc yellow pages in the Twin Cities market are branded Verizon on the front cover. More info here.

    If Verizon really wanted to distance themselves, couldn’t they simply tell Idearc to stop putting their logo on the thing?

  9. Kohler, you make a point, but did you ever consider picking up the litter? You aren’t going to get the publishers to change – advertisers pay based on circulation, not on whether anyone actually reads the book. Unless you are going to document thousands of abandoned books and send it to the advertisers, nothing is going to change. If anything, your post is helping the advertisers by reminding your readers that they should use their Yellow Pages (whatever the brand). For the record, I picked up mine last week and delivered it straight to my recycling bin.

  10. Jay, I do pick up and recycle phone books from time to time. In this case, I was biking.

    I think you may be overlooking other things that could happen due to posts like this. For example, I have received emails from advertisers who said the posts have inspired them to take a closer look at their ad YP ad spending.

    Advertisers are definitely hurt by yellow page companies’ irresponsible printing and delivery of books to abandoned houses, apartments, and offices where there is no chance an advertiser’s ad will ever be seen. It’s pretty pathetic that local businesses are paying for ads in an opt-out form of advertising that’s so difficult to opt-out of. This forces them to pay more than they should need to pay to reach the people that are actually reachable.

  11. You people are so narrow minded and don’t see the big picture. First off, the effort it took to do all of this blog, you could have just picked it up and recycled it yourself. Second, to be truthful I don’t use my phonebook often, especially with internet however when the lights go out and I have no electricty, I really can’t use my computer can I. Additionally, most items in the YP is local and google and yahoo are not as much and 50% of the information is incorrect where most YP information is direct from telephone companies. Third, most of these companies do other services than just YP and employee a lot of people. Last… if no ones uses the YP than why is there still so many people advertising. Here is a test for you: grab your yp and your computer have someone search for a plumber while you look in the YP. Tell me who finds it first and who much valuable information you get first and decide then.

  12. JD, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you work in the YP industry.

    Frankly, I can think of few things stupider than insulting a former subscriber who’s clearly frustrated with your business practices. I suppose that says something about the kind of people running print spam operations these days.

    While using a computer when the power is out may be difficult, there are plenty of options for looking up business information. Only a narrow minded financially biased person would be unable to see options such as free 411 services that can be used from a landline or cell phone such as 800-GOOG-411 (800-466-4411).

    What would happen if you were, say, trapped under something heavy in your house out of reach of your yellow pages? Never thought about that? Well, you should. As long a a phone was within reach such as your cell phone, you’d still be able to connect with your local piano movers.

    The YP industry has to come up with a better marketing angle than, “Well, what if they lights go out?” Are businesses swayed by that? “Verizon Yellow Pages: Your best place to advertise when there isn’t any power. You know, the times when your power is probably out too.”

    As I understand it, one of Google’s primary sources of business listings is the yellow pages (here’s an example where DexKnows contributes to the content). Maybe you can explain to me how the information would be less accurate when presented in an online form – where it’s easier to update in real time – than in print?

    Industries come and go. There were jobs before the print YP industry existed and there will be once it’s gone.

    Thanks for the YP challenge idea. Unfortunately, I don’t have a phone book. It’s probably frozen in a snow bank at Idearc Media in Eagan, MN these days.

  13. Sounds like this is a yellow pages bashing page. However I would like to point out one MAJOR difference between comapnies like RH Donnley, Idearc, AT&T & Yellow Book.

    RH Donnley, AT&T and Idearc deliver White and Yellow pages in areas where they are contracted to do so by the local phone company…because it is the law. Phone companies MUST deliver an up-to-date white pages directory to every business and residence in the coverage area…it’s the law…has been for decades. These deliveries must bei ndependantly verified.

    Yellow Book on the other hand is an independant publisher. They have no affiliation with any phone company, thus are not required to do anything but sell ads in their directories.

    Good luck on getting rid of the only book out there that is read more, is in more homes, is distributed more…than only one other book.

    The bible.

  14. Truth, thanks for sharing. Good point about the white pages being required by law. As you probably know, Cincinnati Bell managed to get the white pages delivery law overturned in that city.

    Frankly, you’ve raised more questions for me than you’ve answered.

    While some companies do white and yellow pages, how does that change the debate over yellow pages? Should people be free to opt-out of either or both?

    And what the heck does the bible have to do with phone books?

    If you read a few more posts here, you’re realize that I’m not trying to get rid of phone books. I’m just interested in seeing them delivered to ONLY people who actually want them. That’s reasonable, eh?

  15. Yellow pages were intially introduced to to offset the costs associated with production and delivery of white pages. However, that was long ago…

    Nowadays, yellow pages industry is a huge cash cow. One of the only businesses that I know that exceeds 50% profit margins.

    I agree that there should be some “opt out” program. But it would be better to only allow “one” yellow pages company per area. The reason I say this, one is obvious, only one book, only one to recycle each year. But think about the companies that advertise in these books. How much better, and cheaper would it be for them if they only had to advertise in one book only. Many businesses must advertise in multiple directories for their service area. This can cost an average company many thousands of dollars each month.

    Ask any business that advertises with display ads in multiple directories if they would like that. I would almost bet the farm they would all say yes. How much would you as a consumer save with your local plumber if he didn’t have to pay that $12,000 YP bill each month? In an average metro area, full pages in 3 directories, that would be an average price for all three books.

    Just a thought. If you are going to “opt out”, opt out of all the books that are not associated with the local phone company. If these “other” books are not used by the consumers, businesses will not advertise in them. If no one advertises in them…they go away.

  16. Truth, I don’t find any of the books useful and really could care less about which companies are behind each yellow pages directory. It just doesn’t matter. None of them help me because I’ve found more efficient ways to find the information I’m looking for.

    The industry hurts local businesses when it sells more than one directory in the same market. The industry hurts local businesses when it delivers books to people who don’t want them. It hurts local businesses who pay taxes that go toward recycling books that were never used.

  17. Bill, let me guess: You work for a phone book company? Are you sticking up for a competitor, or do you work for Idearc Media?

    I was simply providing Idearc Media’s offices with a valuable print directory of local business information.

    Frankly, I’m surprised to hear you describe my delivery of an Idearc Media phone book as littering. I suppose you’re close enough to the industry to know.

  18. Ed,
    You still never answered any of may questions and no I don’t work for YP industry. I think the odds of your phone being dead, your electricity going out, or your cellphone battery dead is more common than you being trapped under something heavy… but I’m done with your narrow minded views. This is like having a conversation with a wall, it doesn’t go anywhere. You don’t care about the enviroment, you don’t care about the people these companies employ, you don’t care about the Billions of dollars these companies generate for small businesses, just that YOU don’t want them delivered to you. So I did some research for you and found out you can call the phone companies and opt out. Oh and by the way, it took 35 minutes to find the right number that was in the phone book in 35 seconds.

    Lastly, there are millions of incorrect listings on google, yahoo, and MSN. They are search engines and get there information on the net, mostly from old documents and information. This is the business and industry that I am in.

  19. Interesting to see all this activity on a 5 month old posting…almost as if there is some kind of legislative activity pending on YP spamming.

    Cool, it gives me an opportunity to pitch the OPT-IN for all Yellow Page distribution. The existing legal requirement is only for WHITE PAGE distribution, and even that should be reviewed now that better options that are less wasteful are available to homes. In today’s world–
    –No one needs either directory, if someone wants to OPT-IN for these legacy products, kinda like buying a cassette deck for their home stereo because they still have some tapes they haven’t taken time to replace, go for it. But for the 75% of us who have modernized to new approaches, spare us the hassle of dealing with it.
    –Both should immediately be switched to OPT-IN to reduce the rampant waste and disposal problems.
    –With rampant foreclosures the norm in our cities, these piles of YP SPAM create piles of blight, that immediate identify to drifters and criminals which houses are great targets for vandalism and squatting; which then creating law enforcement issues.

    Phonebooks had a great 50+ year run, but it is done, and if the industry cannot modernize itself to reduce the waste, then it appears OPT-IN legislation will be the next best solution to this growing problem.

  20. i’d like to leave a comment on this one, I use the yellow pages on occasion in addition to google, etc. just to see who is local (florists, etc.) and who isn’t because online has too many national companies IO could care less about because I care about the value of supporting businesses LOCAL to my city, but I myself INTENTIONALLY left a yellow book on my front walkway because the book is a piece of crap, Idearc (= Verizon, Bell Atlantic, Nynex, New England Telephone, Etc) is the company that derived from the PHONE COMPAN, although technology has changed the way we conduct business drastically I know that when my phone lines need repairs it’s the workers from the PHONE COMPAN coming to fix my lines NOT Yellow Book, they basically copied the original and tried to have a complete listing of all homes but they don’t, the reason Yellow Book left the book there is because they don’t have current listings on people living in certain areas whereas idearc does through the phone company so obviously the delivery person had 2 choices here 1) leave no book and either throw the Yellow Book out (potential lawsuit or major news issue condemning Idearc) or 2) put their own book there to make sure people don’t only see one name laying there, as sad as it may seem it is advertising whether it’s sitting there or not.

  21. Jon, I find your defense of adding additional yellow pages spam / litter to the front steps of a house that already has rotting phone books tortured at best.

    I realize the companies that own yellow pages spam operations vary, but that doesn’t change the fact that Idearc Media is littering and should be fined for every instance of littering like this across the city of Minneapolis.

  22. Ed,

    I guess i’m confused here, so Idearc should be fined for this but Yellow Book shouldn’t ? the sole reason Yellow Book left their book there in the first place is because they utilize Idearc’s (Verizon’s) white pages as their sole means of distribution whereas Idearc in addition also has access to the 35% of people living in every city who have private numbers NOT listed in the Yellow pages, but to go futher down this road, I guess Apple should have never come up with an operating system because Windows already has one but now that they have we should fine Microsoft every time we get SPAM from them in our mailbox be in online or in the actual mail that we don’t want, what about Newspapers, lets fine weekly circular deliveries as well, for about 100 years people used the phone book to get business, i’m sorry if the person delivering the book doesn’t stop and take the time to do an analysis of each area to determine if it is an abaondoned home or simply a crackhouse, I myself left a yellow book on my lawn INTENTIONALLY so that they wouldn’t deliver another, it was my message to that company saying “this is the phone book, we have 1 of these already printed by the phone company, a company that over the years has not only helped small to medium businesses to grow but has also provided quality health care and bemefits for families for years, get your book outta here along with your company”

  23. Idearc Media does’nt distribute the phone book at all. It is done by a third party distributer which delivers them for the yellow book as well. You seem like a bitter former advertiser that probably most likely had a problem paying his bill. To say that Idearc should be fined for littering peoples door steps is to say you should be fined for littering the internet with useless rants and garbage.

  24. Jon, I think every company that leaves print spam at vacant homes should be fined for littering. I have no particular grudge against Idearc Media. They just happen to be the example used in this post.

    William, I realize that it may seem difficult for you to comprehend this due to your financial ties, but I really am only concerned with seeing yellow pages companies – including the one you work for – stop delivering their books to people who don’t want them (and abandoned houses where no one is there to say they don’t want them).

    For now, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you tell ALL of your local business clients that your company delivers books to vacant properties and homes of people who no longer want/use the books. I don’t know how you could sleep at night if you’re taking money from hard working local business owners that will end up being spent to print and deliver books that are never used.

    I hope you realize that just because Idearc Media employees aren’t directly distributing the books doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible for distribution. If you hire someone to kill someone you’re still responsible, right? Same logic applies (although not on that extreme of a scale).

    William, regarding your painfully stretched comparison between Idearc’s litter and what I write, please consider that you opted-in to read and comment on this post. I’d love to see Idearc Media switch to an opt-in policy for their print directories as well. Simply send them to people who request them. That way local advertisers will know they’re getting in front of people who plan to actually use their Idearc Media yellow pages. Is that too rational?

  25. We’ll everyone should be happy to know R.H. Donnelley Corporation has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Now maybe everyone can quit arguing with each other.

  26. I hope they manage to emerge from Chapter 11 a smarter, stronger, more modern company that provides a better product to businesses while treating consumers with more respect.

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