Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Adios Yello Pages?

I recently reviewed my web design company's Yellow Pages advertising. Essentially, I've had the feeling for some time that the Yellow Pages book was anachronistic for certain services like website design. So, I reduced my company's advert to a smaller, simpler format, much to the salesman's dismay. When he left I got the distinct impression that this was was not an uncommon experience for him.

Lo and behold, when the new book recently arrived, nearly all the web design companies had similarly reduced their adverts. Indeed, there are fewer adverts, so many were now either out of business or had stopped using Yellow Pages altogether.

The recent figures released by Yellow Pages show that our decision reflects a near universal trend. Yellow Pages is losing out, with sales down 9.4% and spend is instead going to Yell.com, up by 23%.

Decline almost always develops a momentum of its own, as falls one year feed into and precipitate further falls the next year. So we may well be witnesssing the end of the beginning of the end for Yellow Pages. But then this also raises the question of what next for Yell.com? Despite reporting rising user figures, I suspect that Yell.com is riding on the former ubiquity of Yellow Pages for an older generation. How many people under 30 use Yell.com over, say Google?

It may be that the very forces that are behind the decline of Yellow Pages will also do for Yell.com too. Local information remains important even in a globalised world, and the ability of Google and others to provide targeted localised results erodes the value proposition of Yell.com.
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