Yellow Pages: The Derelicts of Distribution

A commenter on one of my videos on YouTube has reminded me that the Yellow Pages industry is still far from grasping where the public is on YP distribution.

I’m assuming that this person works for the yellow pages industry but not for Idearc Media based on the comments they’ve left to date. I’d be surprised to be wrong about that.

The commenter, uscomputing, recently let loose with this remark:

I’m sure the junk mail put into your actual mail box certainly outweighs the one or two phone books you get for the year lol.

If uscomputing was a regular reader of The Deets, he/she would know that their assumptions are off base. I countered with this remark:

@uscomputing, direct mail companies honor opt-out requests. The success of their businesses are based on the quality of their lists, so they have no problem removing people who don’t plan to buy from them. YP companies, on the other hand, appear to be basing pricing on the illusion of market saturation, which is a farce they seem to be fighting to keep alive through over delivery.

It’s a shame that? YP companies don’t show more respect for home owners and their client’s ad dollars.

To which uscomputing responded with this somewhat legible remark:

I could understand that if one of the big pluses to advertising in the yellow pages, yellowbook, superpages wasn’t that they distribute to every house and every business in every residence in that geographic area.
To me that is an advantage. If you want to advertise in a directory where people are not receiving it, there are plenty of? other options: newspapers, magazines, etc. You are in the minority of people that opt out and the people that don’t want it and are making a big deal out of it.

As I interpret that, uscomputing seems to be suggesting that yellow pages companies should have a right to spam every property in a city in order to be able to say that they spam every property in a city. Spamming every property in the city appears to be the yellow pages’ differentiator over companies who only distribute ads to those who choose to receive them.

As uscomputing seems to justify it, the delivery of an ad to someone’s doorstep is somehow valuable whether or not the unrequested printed directory is ever opened. It’s not clear to me how uscomputing justifies value in deliveries to those who immediately march their spam to recycle bins (not to mention foreclosed home deliveries). For now, I’ll assume that uscomputing is talking about value in terms of what yellow pages companies can overcharge local businesses based on dangerously antiquated circulation assumptions.

Sadly, I get the impression that uscomputing’s sadistic print directory delivery mindset continues to be shared by many people within the YP industry. While yellow pages employees may derive pleasure from inflicting pain in the form of printed spam upon non-print users like myself, their chances of still being employed tomorrow would likely be higher if they made the pain go away for those who no longer use their printed product.

5 thoughts on “Yellow Pages: The Derelicts of Distribution”

  1. Hey Ed, Good afternoon!

    I wonder what would happen if the yellow page industry:

    -Stopped allowing sales reps to give credit to illegal aliens for yellow page ads
    -Stopped assuming that folks actually still use the white pages or the need for such outweighed the environmental impact
    -Stopped sending quality leads to folks that don’t pay on the backs of paying customers
    -Stopped sneaking around and sharing information with competitors
    -Ceased the idea that everyone “deserves” a yellow pages. I would focus on a direct mail style distribution with a very easy opt out system that actually works.
    -Stopped making pricing so darn NON-Transparent and actually attempted to make it a fair marketplace.
    -Realized that 9% bad debt and 6% claims and (my opinion) 15% sales fraud is not the way to go forward
    -Realized that having 9 billion in debt and reducing it to 3 billion does not mean that you are no longer bankrupt.

    I can keep going… but that is all for now!

  2. @Mike, it sounds like your tune has changed a bit since leaving the industry.

    To address just one of your claims, are you suggesting that the YP industry employs illegal aliens as sales reps? While not impossible, that seems like an atypical job for an undocumented worker.

  3. No. Idearc prints Spanish Yellow Pages. They hired Hispanic Bilingual reps to sell the product. The reps are getting fake phone lines or prepaid lines and selling advertisements to illegal aliens. These same reps were offered higher commission rates to place ads. The usage on the Spanish product is horrible and the cancellation rate is around 70-85% depending on the book. Take a look at the postcard products as well.

    My tune has not changed towards the print yellow pages. I personally do not use the product and never have. I am 28 years old and grew up with a PC and an Atari. I don’t understand the fascination with print ads when the internet is much more dynamic. But I know the product works. My mother worked for GTE Yellow Pages back in 1997 (she recently passed last year in an accident). I know her clients and I know my clients. The product does work. I just don’t think it works as well, and I think the company could make big improvements with ad tracking, distribution, online ad buying, transparent pricing, and a media planning focus vs sales focus. Unfortunately the company needs strong margins to cover overhead. Main reason I wanted to leave the company is that I didn’t agree with many things and was not offered the ability to ask the right questions. The Pespsi, PPC, and Building Supply fellas make all the decisions.

    I am sure I will have fun doing what I enjoy! Good news is I won’t need but 10-20 clients, and the churn will be significantly less! I think the fascination with paid search will soon end when folks start realizing that Maps/SEO is where it is at! We all love utilizing our expertise and what can happen when you invest in your greatest asset: YOUR BRAIN!

    Cheers again Ed!
    Mike Stewart

    Mike Stewart
    http://www.DallasSEOguru.com

  4. Oh and Ed….. phone books do work for advertisers! Just not the Urban ones for businesses that want a more affluent buyer. If I am a smart buyer with money, I prefer to research before I spend. One reason why when print does get used the national and prominent advertisers get nice calls and the rest get divided out among the non payers, paying advertisers, and in-column ads.

    Just imagine, a typical block has 6 homes….. x2 sides of the street is atleast 10 homes that will get a book. If just 2 or 3 kept it the YP companies paid for the distribution. The margins on the product are as much as dealing drugs! lol. Why? Maybe because they had a monopoly and keep raising rates! The independents and economic recession combined with local search boom is killing the balance sheets. That is why I still don’t think 3 billion is low enough. I think YP in urban markets is like TubeTV’s! Done on the S-curve. Yet I think the country folks will keep using it. It is great. I like Hometown Yellow Pages.

    Mike

  5. Ed,

    It seems like many are missing your point. What RIGHT do the companies have to litter yards and put products on doorsteps that people feel they do not need. Even AT&T said they do not need white pages… if that is the case with 1-800-GOOG-411 why do we have to have Yellow Pages? Online and Free phones services are avail. Should Yellow Pages companies offer products on a subscriptions basis?? I believe so and stated how this would benefit them in becoming an authority and offer a better product. They just need to be more innovative with solutions in my opinion. But I am sure time will help lead them to the troff. I actually was lined up to meet with the Executive V.P. of the region to discuss ideas, but assumed that the meeting would jeopardize my career…. it was stated that they don’t need advice from “media consultants”. Gotta love a culture that doesn’t appreciate the right questions being asked.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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