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Yellow Pages: Are They Obsolete?

Posted On: April 7, 2013

In the 20th century, being listed in the Yellow Pages was just as important to a business as having a telephone. To not be listed in the Yellow Pages was business suicide. This printed directory was far and away the chief resource customers used for finding a company or service. Businesses paid top dollar for display ads to draw the attention of potential clients and customers, but at the very least, everyone needed to be listed.


Over the past two decades, the term “Yellow Pages” evolved somewhat. It became the default term not only for the printed directories themselves but for Internet directories. More recently, the printed directories have rapidly shrunken in size. Every year, fewer companies choose to use their previous marketing dollars on display ads or even listings in the books. The same is occurring to the online directories, now that Google searches, websites and other marketing means have taken precedence.

So… , are Yellow Pages entirely obsolete?

Perhaps not entirely, but close enough. Businesses that have a little something extra to spend aren’t necessarily hurting themselves by listing themselves in the Yellow Pages–either the printed or online versions–but it certainly isn’t a top priority.

This is especially true if your customers are in more technologically oriented areas–e.g., major cities, the coasts–or are generally younger or more tech-savvy. If your customer base is generally older or more traditional, there might be some utility to being in the Yellow Pages, but this is still just ancillary marketing. Even the term “Yellow Pages” has been in steady decline in Internet searches, indicating its eventual obsolescence.

Yellow Pages publishers have acknowledged the trend. Supermedia pointed out the declining use of the printed directories in a statement about its declining revenues. The CEO of YellowBook acknowledged to Fox Business News that printed directories will not be distributed in some markets within five years.

An industry study showed the reality as it relates to the 18-34 demographic: People in this age group use both digital and print Yellow Pages far less often than Internet search engines for choosing a business.

Before the digital revolution, the Yellow Pages label had a great degree of recognition; it was so well established that its affiliation alone would be beneficial to businesses. In the new era, it translates none of that meaning.

Businesses are always best served to strategically determine which marketing methods are best for them and what sort of return on investment they’re receiving. However, no matter what the business type, returns from Yellow Pages advertising will continue to subside across the board.

Ring Ring Marketing has the expertise to examine your marketing methods and find the most economical and successful ways to get your phone ringing.

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