Dick Larkin’s Hillbilly Yellow Pages Logic

Dick Larkin of YP Commando has an interesting list of “hillbilly logic” in his newsletter where he presents yellow pages industry positions on a lot of hot topics in the news these days.

He starts out by insulting politicians who’ve attempted to respond to concerns from constituents regarding over delivery of yellow pages directories, then gets into his hillbilly logic list. To see his list with his commentary, click here. Below is his list with my commentary.

1. Local businesses underwrite the entire cost of compiling, editing, proofing, printing, and distributing the Yellow Pages. The only funding for the books comes from local businesses.

But they don’t cover the cost of cleaning up the mess they create. Taxpayers are on the hook for the pickup and disposal costs of the directories, whether they were used or not. Asking YP companies to cover the cost of the mess they create seems reasonable to me.

2. Local businesses are VERY SOPHISTICATED advertisers.

If that’s the case, why is so much YP advertising sold based on metric-poor ego-driven competition comparisons, fear, and loyalty rather than performance? Or worse. There are plenty of stories of small businesses who want to cancel their ad because they no longer think the cost is justified. But, since YP advertising is often sold with a loyalty metric (you’ll lose your position in the directory among advertisers advertising with similar sized ads), leaving for a year then coming back is very punitive.

3. The business generated by advertising would not otherwise occur.

I don’t have any yellow pages directories in my home. Yet if a pipe were to break, I’d still manage to contact a plumber. Business would happen. Or, are you suggesting that water would continue to pour into my home until a YP directory was delivered?

4. Asking consumers to opt-in to receive a local resource that has been freely distributed since 1878 is like asking residents to begin voluntarily funding the local libraries, police, and fire services.

No, it is not at all like that. Were it so, the YP industry wouldn’t be actively working to kill off white pages directories.

5. Yellow Pages publishers are privately held companies who make no money publishing directories that are not used.

The YP industry has a media model where having the illusion of market saturation is part of the value proposition. While one would think that the YP industry would self regulate to an effective targeted distribution strategy, this has not happened, which is why politicians are hearing from frustrated constituents.

6. If directories cease to deliver profitable customers, the businesses will stop advertising. When the businesses stop advertising, the books disappear naturally.

Agreed. This is definitely happening. Hopefully, YP companies figure out how to use the web more effectively than this.

Sadly, yellow pages insiders seem to think that they’re entitled to spam residents with unsolicited phone directories multiple times per year, the tide is shifting. Do to a shift in business search behavior, over deliveries due to competing directories, people are feeling inundated with directories and want to gain back some control over what’s left to rot on their doorsteps.

While Dick Larkin considers political efforts to bring some sanity to phone directory distribution “anti-small business”, in reality, it’s only a response to the failures of the YP industry to regulate itself.

Regarding the cost to businesses of something like Seattle’s proposed recovery fee that would chip 14 cents per distributed book to the city to cover the costs of dealing with the eventual clean-up of the books. Seattle has 258,499 households, so this “anti-small business” proposal would cost only $36,189 for a YP company delivering to every household in the city. I have a hunch that $36k divided by all of Seattle’s yellow pages advertisers isn’t all that punitive. Especially considering that the advertisers are also taxpayers, thus paying a share of this cost today through municipal waste fees.

I get the impression that people like Dick Larkin and Ken Clark are big believers in personal responsibility. This is a case where they can show that they walk the walk by getting their industry to take responsibility for the waste it creates.

3 thoughts on “Dick Larkin’s Hillbilly Yellow Pages Logic”

  1. Advertising in any non-DEX book is literally like throwing your money away. And advertising in a DEX book is the most expensive and (increasingly) irrelevant advertising you can buy.

    Yellow Pages were once essential for most businesses. Most businesses would now make better use of a buggy whip than a Yellow Page ad. DEX has downsized most of their accounts to a simple clerical transaction, no sales people involved. I would not be surprised if there was no 2012 DEX book. The only reason they’re still around is that their executives still haven’t unloaded all their stock.

  2. 1) names one industry that does?

    2) so the businesses that pull out of the book, and then come running back next year because their business drops off significantly don’t count?

    3) if you don’t want to find a plumber via the book, even though it’s easy, go ahead, it’s your leak

    4) It’s not?

    5) Illusion? Not sure a book in 90+% of all households in that. But 90% online or mobile penetration is..

    6) Wow. You agreed.

    and one of the sites you reference http://www.haystackinaneedle.com is amazingly light with a news page that hasn’t been updated since 2005. I thought that was an online no-no?

  3. Ken, I’m not saying that yellow pages are not an effective advertising medium when the price is right. But, I image that you’re aware that YP advertising is often sold based on fear, and anecdotes, rather than proving the value to customers.

    Regarding cleanup of the messes businesses create, it happens all the time. Examples include parades, running races, concerts, mines, and forestry.

    Regarding your 90% saturation figure, do you that holds up to a reality check in cities that receive more than one directory per year? They can promise saturation spam, but not saturatuon use.

    And, who benefits from directory spamming of vacant properties? Small business? Taxpayers? Help me understand how YP spam helps my community.

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