Who killed the Yellow Pages?
No one, it seems. Not even the Internet.
Contrary to popular perception, the Yellow Pages business phone directory is alive and doing OK, thank you.
Printed business phone books are still a $3 billion industry, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some 40% of Americans use a Yellow Pages directory at least once a year; 13% of New York City residents pull out the YP at least once a week.
The books have grown thinner over the years, as many advertisers have moved their ad dollars to the internet. Revenue has fallen, too. Just 15 years ago the Manhattan Yellow Pages was a $100 million annual business; now it does about $10 million in revenue. A full-page ad in the Manhattan book used to cost $7,000 a month. Now it’s $700 per month.
Yellow Pages publishers long ago recognized the power of the internet and began bundling ads in the book with online listings and digital marketing services. But what really keeps the industry alive is its appeal to older consumers, who still prefer to leaf through a hard copy directory in search of local service providers – lawyers, locksmiths, exterminators and plumbers.
“The Yellow Pages will be around for the foreseeable future,” the head of a Yellow Pages trade association told the Wall Street Journal. “Those folks who are 55 and older will be around for a long time.”
There’s a good reminder here for investors and business owners alike. The disruptive power of a new competitor or product can’t be underestimated. It has the power to turn a juggernaut into a niche business almost over night.