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Yellow Pages Water in Basement Scenario Goes International

I’ve written before about the recurring justification trotted out by people working in the slowly-dying print yellow pages industry in response to people stating they no longer find print yellow pages valuable.

It really is amazing that anyone in the industry would actually bother trying to convince people that they should be using something they’ve concluded is no longer of value to them. Instead, why not focus on the reasons why some people still use yellow pages and work to keep them happy?

Perhaps print yellow pages folks are just bad at dealing with rejection?

Regardless of the reason, arguments including the “water in the basement” scenario keep being dragged out as reasons people should clog up their homes with otherwise worthless yellow pages (they’re otherwise worthless if that’s the only reason you’re keeping them around). For example, here’s a story from Quebec about a guy who’s fed up with yellow pages in his neighborhood who’s organizing an effort to solve the problems caused by Bell Canada and Telus (he should consider himself lucky to only receive two pieces of yellow pages spam per year instead of the three we receive in Minneapolis).

And, as usual, someone rolled out the water in the basement scenario:

Yellow Pages Water in the Basement Scenario

If the water in the basement scenario is the only thing that’s keeping the yellow pages, alive, I’d strongly suggest to plumbers to send a 1-time mailing to their target market with the following message: “Someday your basement may flood. Be prepared for that day by saving this piece of paper with my phone number on it in a safe dry place. You can now feel prepared for that day AND unsubscribe from the yellow pages.”

5 thoughts on “Yellow Pages Water in Basement Scenario Goes International”

  1. You must be joking. There are millions upon millions of people who make use of yellow pages everyday. Using the internet to access it is not their first choice. Your article is just completely inaccurate.

  2. Nash, I can assure you that I’m not joking. Just because millions find print yellow pages valuable doesn’t mean those who no longer do should have their time and money wasted dealing with a printed form of spam.

    You claim what I’ve said is inaccurate. Consider citing specific examples with links to back up statements like that. If I’m wrong, show me where.

  3. Ed,

    As an on again – off again Yellow Pages guy, I think your argument is being taken out of context by my fellow local advertising professionals.

    If someone doesn’t want to receive the Yellow Pages, they should have a good option of informing the publisher that they prefer not to receive it.

    The Yellow Pages Association along with the Association of Directory Publishers have launched a website at where people can find the most direct route to inform local publishers of their wishes.

    I personally believed that print media would be dead by now. I even went so far as to co-found an online advertising company, raised several million in funding, and flipped it to a much larger agency.

    But I returned to a publisher of community telephone directories that serve smaller towns throughout the Midwestern United States because I saw first hand that online advertising was not yet delivering the leads necessary for local businesses.

    So the second part of your note (which many may infer) is whether print directory advertising makes sense as an investment for local businesses.

    Having run several thousand metered ads both online and offline over the past few years, I came to the conclusion that print advertising, done properly, delivers vastly more leads per dollar for many local businesses.

    For now, I’m putting my money on hyper-local print directories.

    Will print ever go away?

    Yeah, I certainly assume so. (I keep expecting lead pencils to go away too).

    But I recommend that local businesses use metered call lines in any ad before blindly shifting dollars out of print. It isn’t good enough to ask every caller. Use empirical rather than anecdotal evidence.

    Surprisingly, one of the crazy success stories we have is of a web designer who makes a great return on his print YP advertising.

    Keep up the excellent writing. I can handle the Deets 🙂

  4. @Dick, if yellow pages want to provide the highest value possible to their advertisers at the lowest possible cost, shouldn’t they deliver the books to ONLY people who plan to open them? In order to do that, they shouldn’t rely on cumbersome multiple opt-out systems but a single opt-in solution. That would guarantee that only the people who want them receive them. And, it would solve the problem of yellow pages being delivered to homes where no one lives, thus can’t opt-out, like vacant foreclosed homes.

    I’ve covered the joke that is here.

    I’ve never argued that print advertising, including yellow pages, is ineffective. If that’s your take on my position, it’s off the mark. However, I think we can both agree that an advertiser gains nothing by covering the production, delivery, and community recycling costs for yellow pages delivered to people who no longer plan to use print directories. That’s surely a negative ROI. I doubt you’ve ever metered a call from a house that has no phone because it’s vacant with no active line.

    If you’re in the business of helping businesses have more success with their yellow pages advertising, it sounds like our interests are aligned. Let’s work together to make sure only those who plan to use print yellow pages receive them. Any else is nothing but spam.

    BTW, I pulled your sig out of your comment. People can click your website link if they’d like to find out more about you or your services.

  5. Pingback: yellow page advertising – What is the difference between Yellow Book and Yellow Pages? Should I advertise with them?

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