The Beginning Of The End For Paper Advertising

by Joanne Steele on May 18, 2011

phone book stacks

Yellow page phone book stacks, a thing of the past in San Francisco.

For those of you who were in my internet marketing trainings this spring, you’ll remember that I said, “Within 5 years, visitors guides will be obsolete.”

Thanks to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote yesterday to make yellow page phonebooks opt-in, my prediction may be a little generous.

My take on how will SF’s yellow page phonebook opt-in policy affects rural areas.

California tends to take the lead in many things because it has a large population and a huge economy – 5th largest in the world!

By making those yellow page phone books opt-in, meaning you have to SAY YOU WANT IT TO GET IT, most people won’t be getting phone books this year in San Francisco.

The yellow page phone book companies in the SF Bay Area will no longer be able to say they have a distribution of 1.6 million (they get to claim all those books that compost in front of apartment buildings as distributed). They won’t be able to continue to charge the big bucks or induce as many advertisers, so the bottom will drop out of the most lucrative markets.

Other major metropolitan areas will follow suit – watch Seattle next.

With no big money to be made, why bother with those phone books in rural areas where profits are lower and work harder.

With paper yellow page phone books on their way out, more people will begin to wake up to the fact that everything one needs to know is available on the internet.

Now is the time, small town chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus, to look for other profit centers and wind down your paper visitor guide production. Not this year, maybe, and perhaps not next year. But as a service to your members get out of the paper guide business in the next few years.

Update your websites. Interlink all your members. Get your message out on all the social media sites including local business directories, review sites and social networking sites used by the people you want to attract.

Then, say goodbye to that paper guide.

Replace it with cell phone tours and QR coded point of interest information (more about how to do this soon).

Don’t be tempted to go visitor guide lite with an expensive digital version on your website that nobody will use (open rates on those things are miniscule).

Your visitors of all ages are going digital!! Lead them. For once, rural areas can afford to be in the forefront instead of playing catchup!

Here are two more posts on the subject:

Rural Tourism Marketing Tip: Give Up Your Paper Visitor’s Guide

Rural Tourism Marketing Tip: Save Money By Ditching Your Print Ads



1 Cathy May 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

I hate them, but I use them!

If I’m looking up a number, then the internet is fine, but if I want options, then the Yellow Pages is still my choice. Maybe US West Dex will replace it someday, but I”m not satisfied yet.

Example, if I’m looking for a B&B in an area, I would go the YP first to see what is offered in an area.

(PS–I’m a ‘boomer, so I may be hanging on to the “old days and old ways!”

2 Frank May 21, 2011 at 2:51 am

Terrific article. My children would no more open a paper yellow pages as fly to the moon!

Bravo San Francisco. Yellow pages ads here in Australia are very expensive. They will die soon, especially when you can use something like Google local business listing for free!

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