Yellow Pages Losing to Mobile Phones

This is an interesting point for the head of communications for the Yellow Pages industry to be making: “Most Americans turn to online resources for local search.”

Local Searches Set to Flip to Mobile Phone

Presently, two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they generally turn to online resources for local search, while 33% turn to print, and 3% go to their phones. However, mobile phone users outnumber computer users by 39 million. And the market for mobile search is growing faster than expected.

Is it really that surprising? Most Americans work with computers. Most Americans have cell phones. So why would most Americans turn away from their computers or not use their cell phones to look up information? How could it possibly be more convenient to retrieve and sort through a heavy piece of printed spam that goes more and more out of date by the day?

If that’s happening for business search, wouldn’t the same apply to white pages? It’s pretty safe to assume that a directory is only as useful as the content it contains. The percentage of residential listings surely must be dropping as people switch to mobile phones.

That seems to be the argument used by the local Bell in Cincinnati who managed to convince the city to stop requiring the mass distribution of white pages. Traditionally, white pages production and distribution has been a government requirement for local phone carriers. Thanks to Deets reader, Bob, for sending this over:

Cincinnati Bell Wants To Ditch Phone Book – Cincinnati News Story – WLWT Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bell said most customers rarely use the printed residential directory any longer but prefer to look up numbers on the Web. The company has asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for a waiver so the White Pages wouldn’t have to be delivered automatically to each customer.

Cincinnatti Bell was successful with this lobbying effort. As of now, white pages will be opt-in, so residents will need to proactively request the delivery of a phone book or pick one up at one of Cincinnati Bell’s distribution facilities.

Personally, I think this quote sums up the situation nicely:

To be valuable, data must be fresh, accurate and complete.

That applies equally well to white pages as it does to yellow pages.

Isn’t it interesting that the argument used by Cincinnati Bell to get out of the white pages delivery business is the same argument yellow book spam haters have been using?

If yellow books are truly useful, shouldn’t an opt-in policy be a perfectly sound method for distribution? Then, only the people who plan on using the books would have them. This would benefit local businesses since they’d only pay for the production and distribution of books that will be used. It would also help the environment by cutting off waste from being created rather than focusing on downstream methods like recycling – a fine method for dealing with waste but not nearly as good as avoiding the creation of waste in the first place.

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