Yellow Pages evangelist, Ken Clark, doesn’t think it’s fair to use the term “spam” to describe the unsolicited delivery of advertising to people around the country. According to his narrow reading of the definition, he thinks it only applies to email and relies upon the following descriptions from Wikipedia to support his argument (I wonder if Ken realizes that he’s using definitions from Wikipedia’s page called “Spam (electronic)“):
1) “….Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.
2) “…Spamming remains economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists, and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high….’
Regardless, I think it’s pretty darn clear to anyone paying attention that the yellow pages industry is in the business of indiscriminately sending unsolicited bulk messages. And in the case of yellow pages, but refers to both the volume of messages they send and their weight.
#2 is an interesting point. The general theory on why spam in its email form works is because it’s economically viable. A certain percentage of email users actually buy things from spam email messages they receive, so we all have to suffer through receiving these messages because of it. And sending one or one million emails costs approximately the same, so as long as someone buys, the numbers work.
But in the case of yellow pages, the cost of printing and delivery is much higher than for email. Sadly, the reason the numbers still work is because the yellow pages are not direction beneficiaries of the viability of the ads they print and ship. As long as businesses pay for the ads, the yellow pages companies win. And as long as the yellow pages companies can create the illusion that their product is used by every home in America, they’re can continue charging businesses based on that illusion.
It’s worth noting that not all yellow pages deliveries are spam. In fact, the majority is not. But every instance of sending a yellow pages book to someone who has opted out, an abandoned house, or someone who has no plans of using it certainly is.
According to the YP industry, 1 in 8 phone books are not used. Let’s run the numbers on that: There are at least 100,000,000 households in America, and it appears that the average household receives at least 2 yellow pages books each year. If 12.5% of those are not used, we’re talking about 25 million pieces of spam being generated a year.
And, as the industry is willing to admit, 80% of those books are not recycled but thrown in the trash, so we have 20 million UNUSED phone books per yer filling our landfills.
Perhaps Ken Clark is right about the use of the term “spam” to describe what yellow pages companies do to us. I don’t think it’s strong enough of a term.
If you get a chance, check out the awesome comments by Ken Clark over here. He starts by saying they don’t spam, then goes into the ways they’re talking the talk on how they plan to one day not spam people. Then he says to just deal with it. It’s a wonderfully twisted argument by someone who’s on the wrong side of history.