Your question, "Are we missing something?" (6/29/07 TVBR #127). The answer is, "You bet!" Broadcasters have their heads in the sand when it comes to the Yellow Pages in their markets. Because of it, the directory companies are laughing all the way to the bank at their expense.
For the last thirty-five years I have been training broadcasting salespeople on how generate new business revenue by counseling local business owners on "THE OTHER SIDE OF THE YELLOW PAGES STORY". That is the side the Yellow Page reps don't want business owners (or you) to know about, and it is also the side they are paying too much for. They work with their clients on being more effective for less in the directories and to re-invest the savings with their stations.
For the last ten years I have been told that there would be no future need for our counseling training because the Internet would be taking over the directory usage. Yet, in the past ten years, I see they are still here, growing every year, and taking more dollars out of most markets than all the broadcasters combined.
How can that be you might ask? Yellow Pages are so profitable the directory companies are not going to let them go away. A few years ago a Yellow Pages executive told me that they can pay the sales commission, the printing charges and the distribution fees with two months of billing. The rest is profit. At least 72% profit was his findings. Broadcasters should be aware that they are not going to give up that kind of profit. That is why private equity firms are buying them up. They don't bet their future on a "dying duck."
Then too, when the Supreme Court broke up the AT&T monopoly in 1984, part of that decree said that the local phone companies could not maintain a monopoly in their markets. Therefore, they had to sell their directory lists to competitive companies producing phonebooks. Knowing the profitability of the Yellow Pages a lot of Independents got into the business. (And still are.) We get three different phonebooks at our home in Des Moines, IA, and they are all full of display ads.
Your question, "Who in the Internet generation even thinks of using the Yellow Pages?" Good question as a consumer. The problem is those well trained Yellow Page salespeople have got the business owners brain-washed into still believing the directories are well used. They use the emotions of "Fear of Loss', "Ego", and "Hope for Gain" to get inside a business owner's head and keep them spending BIG TIME.
In regards to the Internet, the directory companies are hedging their bets. They all have developed an Internet service and are using it as an add-on to keep business owners maintaining their presence in the Yellow Pages. They make it really difficult to downsize in the Yellow Pages because of their Internet tie-in. Now they offer the business owner the best of all worlds. They maintain their presence in the directories and reinforce the usage via the Internet.
Are the Yellow Pages still a factor in the market? You bet. Are they going away? Not until local broadcaster learn how to fight against them. It is time for broadcasters to think "outside of their box" regarding how much of the local advertising budgets are going out of town in the pockets of the Yellow Page companies.
Yellow Page Consulting LLC
West Des Moines, IA