Online Marketing Seeing Major Uptick in Light of Reduced Yellow Pages Distribution

NEW YORK - Across the nation and around the world, distribution of the iconic Yellow Pages book is on the decline; between the ease and convenience of digital and online-based alternatives such as smartphones and the cost – both financial and environmental – in creating print phone directories, the days of flipping open a large yellow tome to look up a phone number for any given good or service you might need are drawing to an end, with some Yellow Pages publishers already announcing the date when they will ship their last-ever print volumes to customers who already aren’t using them in the here and now.


But Yellow Pages aren’t merely a way to look up phone numbers and addresses of businesses; they’re also a way for said businesses to advertise and entice their customers to seek out their wares and skills. For decades, one of the surest ways to get your company noticed in the community was to take out an ad in the local Yellow Pages directory; after all, considering the fact that a new volume would be plopping down on every doorstep in town annually or even bi-annually to people who didn’t even ask for its delivery, paying good money to promote your business in the Yellow Pages only made sense.


That is, until recently.


In recent years, a growing national “opt-out” movement – where Yellow Pages customers can cancel home delivery of their business telephone directories, combined with an overall decline in the use of the book in favor of cell phones and tablets with web access, have made the returns involved with advertising in print amounting to less and less. Currently, 91 percent of adults – and a possibly even higher percentage of children and teens – own cell phones, and are far more likely to turn to online Yellow Page directories or Google to look up a business in their area than they are ever to crack open a book that is essentially outdated within days of hitting their stoop due to the rapidly-changing business landscape of today. With that being the case, if next to no one is using the phone book, then who’s ever going to look at all the ads that local businesses are paying top-dollar to put in there?


Until recently, print phone book advertising was a pricy game, as before the internet entered the mainstream it was essentially the only game in town. That being the case, phone companies are able to charge pretty much anything they wanted – in addition to locking advertisers into year-long deals with no wiggle room – and just sit back and reap the profits. After all, everyone back in the day got the phone books, so while merchants were paying a great deal of money to advertise, their dollars typically got results. Sadly, this is no longer the case, although phone companies are still charging the same amounts in spite of dwindling returns; they actually have little choice, as they struggle to recoup their costs as fewer and fewer businesses turn to them for promotional purposes. Indeed, advertisers are all turning to the internet to get noticed these days, a practice they are finding are getting them noticed just as much as print advertising used to, but sometimes at a fraction of the cost and more flexibility to boot.


Currently, advertising in print is cost-prohibitive for many small businesses for a number of reasons. Some examples include the prohibitive costs – especially if a business is situated within or near a large city – because in order to really stand out, you have to purchase a much more expensive ad such as the front of a section or its cover.  In addition, it’s very difficult to track the performance of your ads, unlike their online counterparts, and advertising in print is seen these days as behind the times; most successful companies are referencing online listings nowadays, and not being involved in that scene can cost you customers.


Also, customer review websites and social media are fast becoming a staple for consumers to gauge their interest in any given business, so in addition to devoting more of their advertising budgets to online Yellow Pages, companies would do well to become more engaged with review sites, Facebook, Twitter, and the like as well in order to form a well-rounded online profile that is sure to attract customers to their doorstep.


And let’s not forget that simple fact that, eventually, print Yellow Pages will no longer exist…therefore, it’s better to get on board with advertising on the web when you can still ease yourself into it. When – not if, but when – the concept of a print Yellow Pages directory finally goes up in smoke, any stragglers in the business community will have no choice but to turn to the web to attract an audience…and when that day comes, and they see the undeniable benefit it beings to their bottom line, they may find themselves wondering why they waited so long to get with the program.