The Annual Print Yellow Pages Page Count And Other Anomalies

It is that time of year when I usually am beating a dead horse or three. With the arrival of my annual SuperPages Yellow Page Book(let?) I gleefully get out my ruler, Excel and last year’s book to see whether I can once again make fun of lament the decline of the one of Local’s historic marketing franchises, the print Yellow Pages.

image-croppedShock of shocker though when I realized that this year’s book actually showed an increase in total page count for the first time since I started on this masochistic documentarian exercise. Last year I did note that the rate of decline had slowed. For the 2015-16 book there has actually been a 6% increase in page count from 86 to 91 pages in my local book.

I studied the book to make sure that they weren’t just fluffing the book with filler ads for appearances sake and it does seem that there has been an actual increase in the size (and perhaps the count) of the display ads. While it seemed on casual observation that the truly local ads had often decreased in size there were a number of new, national ads.

YP page count 2015

In a book of so few pages it would only take a few additional ads to lead to this page count increase and obviously my sample size (~n=1) is on the small size. Thus it is hard to know whether the page count in one book in rural upstate NY reflects a larger national trend or is a statistical outlier.

It could be the result of a single more aggressive sales person, it could be that they got tired of me making fun of them and put a push on this edition, it could be an outlier and be masking a continued decline.

Or it could, maybe, possibly indicate that the print YellowPages have stabilized for a while. That really is the best that the industry can hope for; a stable, predictable (albeit smaller) revenue source that can create enough cash flow for them to fully make a transition to digital realities.

In related local news BA/Kelsey reports that overall radio revenues held steady during 2014. Although even there fragmentation of the radio market is bound to lead to future deterioration.


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The Annual Print Yellow Pages Page Count And Other Anomalies by

9 thoughts on “The Annual Print Yellow Pages Page Count And Other Anomalies”

  1. I worked in the industry before this one and every year the book got smaller. I had to leave when business after business told me, “I’m spending my ad dollars on the internet.”

    Mike, I have no idea if this is a national trend where they finally hit the bottom but I do know that the rural books always had a better base than the ones based on the more highly populated areas. But don’t worry these people are now selling terrible internet marketing packages which they force bundle with their yellowpages ads.

  2. Hi Mike, this seems reflective of the economy. Business is on an uptick so there’s more funds to spend on advertising – of all sorts.

    Here in Boulder we have the incredible “Dex” phone book. I’ve got a few right here but we can’t compare since the format of the books are not consistent:

    2011 – 414 yellow pages.
    2014 – 286 yellow pages (with smaller font & 1″ less wide & tall book)
    2015 – 283 yellow pages (back to a larger font & wider book).

  3. @Jeffrey E

    Yes just because they may have time to make a transition to the digital world doesn’t mean that they will succeed…. the products they sell, their selling model, the value they add and the competition are all factors that play into their current state.

  4. Mike: We have several local businesses that are decades old. One of them is associated with the link to my name.

    Decades old. They precede the web. They are in a couple of different regions. Over those periods many local marketing methods were used, including the print yellow pages, local newspapers with classified or display advertising, radio, tv, magazines, and various other methods. In some cases in the DC region we tried over 100 local print publications. Over 100. A lot.

    I’d have to go through old files but we basically ditched local print and the YP print ads maybe 8 years ago. We actually carried those media long after we knew they were producing. In some cases w/ some media….first we cut back. Then we eliminated them in full. That would be print, where you can make changes on a shorter term basis.

    With the print YP we cut back over time. In large metro’s that
    source crap, was very costly. Large metro’s break down subregions into different regions. Most of our smb’s were regional. We would end up advertising in different editions each covering a part of a region with upwards in excess of several million people. On top of that we purchased from more than one hard cover YP.

    Very expensive. While we could have added phone #’s for different editions and regions, we didn’t bother, just analyizing total YP leads and income versus total spend. (too much detail in our perspective).

    Hard YP’s dropped year after year in the early 2000’s. We had a range of ROI on spend from around 10 to 1 to around 4 to 1.

    Then it plummeted. We spent on hard yp’s after the ROI was negligible. Finally we cut it out.

    Interestingly, these days none of the smb’s even get sales calls from the YP’s either hard or internet. I haven’t fielded one in a long time, and I take a lot of sales calls.

    Whether they are still shrinking and/or the shrinking has leveled off….its an old marketing mechanism that just doesn’t work much for many many business types.

    Adios YP’s.

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