The number of total printed Yellow Pages listings and ads has decreased by approximately 50% from 2002’s 15.1 billion to 2010’s 10.9 billion.
By 2013, the number of Internet Yellow Pages listings/ads will be the same as the printed ads, approximately 7.2 billion for each. From 2014 forward, Internet Yellow Pages listings/ads will increase at a faster rate than the printed version.
The recession was a significant factor in the decline of printed and Internet Yellow Pages advertising, but industry experts predict that the printed book will probably never match its highest number, and remain relatively flat, long after the economy has recovered.
The number of homes with landlines continues to decrease, with 31.6% of all American homes with cell-phone service only, which represents approximately 60 million adults.
Although the lack of landlines doesn’t preclude the use of the printed Yellow Pages, another recent study found that approximately 25 percent of Americans discard phone books as soon as they are delivered.
The four remaining “Baby Bell” phone companies still in business after Ma Bell was forced to divest itself during 1982 have sold their Yellow Pages businesses, and often at “fire sale” prices, and then a number of them went bankrupt.
The printed versions of the White and Yellow Pages have become a central environmental issue. Approximately 840,000 tons of telephone directories became waste paper during 2008.
During many decades of the 20th century, few conveniences were as ubiquitous as the telephone. Virtually every home and business, and street corner, had a landline, and once a year the complementary and equally ubiquitous phone directories were delivered to everyone. Businesses, large and small, considered a Yellow Pages ad as an absolutely essential element of their advertising programs. The phone company had a monopoly on this business directory and all the research and statistics showed that it was the first place consumers and other businesses searched when they needed products and services.
If you’re operating a photography business and/or studio, especially a portrait or wedding business, or any type of photography being marketed to consumers, then you probably are like most small, local business owners who think that a Yellow Pages ad is a requirement. It’s certainly one of many components of your advertising program; however, you must take a more measured approach to the use of the Yellow Pages, so you don’t overspend for an advertising medium that doesn’t deliver as it once did.
THE FADING COLOR OF THE YELLOW PAGES
Jump forward to 2012, and the world of telephonic communication has changed immeasurably and beyond the imagination of most mid-20 century families and businesses. Today, the research and statistics tell an entirely different story.
Other factors, however, are signaling that the demise of the printed Yellow Pages may occur sooner than later.
HOW THE YELLOW PAGES WORK
As a business owner, it’s important to understand that the Yellow Pages primary function is to direct people to the businesses that sell the products and services consumers have already decided to buy. The Yellow Pages do not help to create brand awareness. Other forms of advertising help consumers learn about the products and services they might buy in the future if they need them. Only then do they turn to the Yellow Pages to find the sources of those products and services.
Both the printed and Internet versions of the Yellow Pages rank very high when measuring those consumers who use them and those who eventually buy from an advertiser. Although, research shows that consumers tend to trust Yellow Pages more than search engines, in terms of convenience, accuracy and the first place they look, the difference is only a few percentage points.
It should be no surprise that 49% of adults, 50 and older, say they use the Yellow Pages. This is the Baby Boom Generation that remembers the Yellow Pages as the first, and only, resource in the home. Conversely, only 19% of adults, 18–34, use the Yellow Pages, which is an important statistic if you’re a wedding, baby or family portrait photographer.
Additional research shows that approximately 24% of U.S. adults don’t use the printed Yellow Pages. These are mostly males, young adults, single adults, individuals who spend many hours on the Internet and people living in large metropolitan areas.
It’s also significant to note that “photography services” is not one of the top-10 number of ads in the printed Yellow Pages or searches in the Internet version.
As you may have experienced, Yellow Pages advertising is sold very aggressively. In addition, you are generally required to make a 12-month commitment, your ad can’t be changed and it’s placed on a page with all of your competitors.
A WISER STRATEGY
Despite the decreasing use of the printed Yellow Pages, it is still a primary resource of information for a majority of U.S. consumers. It would be unwise to vacate it entirely, but PhotographyTalk’s marketing expert recommends that a large display ad should be avoided and that a standard one-line listing is all that is needed for most photographers. One exception to this recommendation is if you do business in a small town or rural area, whose population is more likely to use the Yellow Pages and where there are fewer competitors’ ads and ad rates are lower.
An advertising program works best when it consists of multiple media, or channels, to communicate with and attract potential customers. A better use of the majority of your limited marketing/advertising budget is Internet marketing; generating word-of-mouth; public relations, most of which is free; and other direct opportunities to make yourself known to your target audience.
Most importantly, you can conduct your own test of your Yellow Pages ads’ draw by asking everyone potential customer who contacts you how they found your phone number or email. This polling should be a constant element of your advertising program to measure the effectiveness of where you spend your money.
Image credit: eric1513 / 123RF Stock Photo
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