Why/how did yellow pages get to cost to much?

I recently moved to Homestead, a small town at the south end of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The phone company provided me with a free set of Miami white pages and has promised to provide me with the much small combined white-yellow directory for the Homestead area. But if I want the Miami yellow pages, that will cost me $53 – because I’m not in the immediate Miami area. (But this is such a small town, I expect to do a lot of shopping further north.)

I’ve done a lot of moving in my life, and never had any trouble getting yellow pages. Time was, you could go to any phone mart and find stacks of yellow pages set out free for the taking. Or go to the Chamber of Commerce. They’d give 'em away. Makes sense. Yellow pages are essentially a bundle of advertising. When you’re in that business, advertisers have to pay for ad space – but their potential customers get the finished product for free.

When and why did they start charging money for yellow pages?

I recently encountered the same thing.

My total WAG: margins fell considerably with the increasing internet presence. Why spend a bunch of money advertising in the yellow pages when you can make a website (which is probably worth it anyway) and let people find it through Google or Yellowpages.com

Wow. My guess is they are on the ropes and we won’t see them in a few years. I would never buy them - it is easier to google for the business I am looking for. In fact, I always go to the internet first and only to the yellow pages after.

I still get piles of free, competing yellow pages with reminders to “keep the best and recycle the rest.” I speculate that the advertisers who pay for them only extends paid distribution to what they consider their customer base. If you live outside that base you may be paying the full cost for what is a big thick book full of printing.

Look at it this way, if each advertiser in the book paid even a penny to put it into a subscriber’s hands, how much would each copy of the yellow pages for Miami bring in? But without the advertiser someone has to make up the money.

It surprises me that they cost that much, frankly. It seems as if every three months there’s some other directory around the office begging for advertising revenue: Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, E-Z Pages, Yellow EZ Fingers, Fingers Book, Book Pages, and all the other competitors.

Seems like they’d be rolling in money: most businesses wouldn’t dare let there be a directory in it without a nicely placed and expensive ad.

But perhaps the competition has driven down ad prices: instead of paying 1 printer $500 for an ad, now you’re paying 5 printers $75 for an ad, resulting in less margin for each distributor. On top of that, some of that money undoubtedly goes to fund the free online versions.

It’s a $12 book. They might be “free”, but they aren’t cheap.

I had never heard of buying yellow pages. They were always on the front porch unasked for and unwanted. Reading this thread, I tried to remember the last time I actually looked something up in the yellow pages instead of online and it must be years.

Well, at one time we only got charged for books for towns out of our area. The Denver Metro book contains Denver and the local burbs, so we never have to pay. If I wanted to get a Greeley (60 miles north) book, I would expect to be charged. No idea what though.

I haven’t had a physical phone book for years. Qwest has for several years, had the white and yellow books available on cd-rom. Free of course. It’s a bit more difficult to flip through and is a poorer substitute for toilet paper, but it sure is fast.


Indeed, living in an apartment in Seattle for only about six months and I was already able to collect about 3 feets worth of yellow pages. They seemed to bring me a new one or two every month and leave it.

This spring I ended up with 4 copies of the Verizon yellow pages on my property within a week of one another. I just figured the neighbors were throwing them at the new guy or something.

My father runs a small business and advertises in the yellow pages. He filled out a form saying what towns he wants to get each year. Every year he gets about ten different ones. He doesn’t pay anything for them unless you count the ad’s as the cost for that service.

When I used to run a business in Memphis it was about $480 per year for a very minimal listing. Always hurt me to think I was paying so much for so little.

Since opening in our new town we have not used the Yellow Pages. People seem to find us. Web and Net for the savvy; driving by and seeing the sign for the rest.

If you’re wondering what business I ran that needed a Yellow Pages ad, no, it was not a forensic pathology service.

My husband teaches Aikido, 32 years and counting. Just a dojo.

I really wonder how the “Yellow Pages” and their imitatiors stay in business. It used to be that if you were looking for a business or service the first resource was the Yellow Pages. The internet changed all of that. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I opened up the Yellow Pages to look for anything. They are useless and just take up space. With a functioning computer there is no need for a telephone book in the house. The white pages are useless because of so many unlisted numbers.

In the big cities it has become a huge shame. Delivery services drop off books to buildings and on doorsteps. The maintenance people don’t even make them available to the residents. They just move them to the trash heep because nobody wants them. It’s a scandelous waste of paper and resources. Sometimes they get recycled but oftentimes they end up with common garbage, never even getting looked at.

If the environmentalists would attack this waste and the waste of magazines and catalogs that are printed and never looked at, maybe we could make some headway into the abuse of our forests. Of course, the Sierra Club prints a magazine that wastes a lot of paper with unsold and unseen copies so they aren’t going to be at the forefront of attacking the problem.

There are two types of phone books, independent and utility.

Utility (or Telco) books are those published by RBOC’s and CLEC’s and anybody else with a local exchange monopoly. If you own the wires that comprise the local network, you, the telephone company, are required to publish a paper directory of all people within the local exchange monopoly. This is a state requirement in all 50 states.

Independent phone books are published by non phone companies - Yellow Book USA is the most obvious example. They are supported completely by advertiser dollars.

Why are they being published? Because they have great cash flow, are regular and steady earners, and people still use them, especially those people far more comfortable gathering information from phones than computers. Even for the worst books, ad revenue generated rarely falls below the production and distribution costs.

Back in 2001-2003, the industry actually had a small “day in the sun”, as dollars left internet advertising (and internet stocks) and went back into more traditional advertising sectors (and stocks). For a number of telephone companies their only significant asset was their directory publishing arm. This is what happened to McLeod USA - a debt-ridden CLEC nightmare that eventually had to sell the only thing that brought in profits: its phone books.

Last year, for example, Donnelly bought the phone book division of Qwest for $9.5 billion.

Why advertise? For many local businesses, especially those regarding either impulsive or emergency purchases, the majority of people’s first exposure to you will come from your phone book listing/advertisement.

FWIW, there are approximately 550,000,000 phone directories printed every year, representing about 6,400 separate titles, in the US.

When I lived in an apartment building, a lot of times they wouldn’t even go to the trash. They would just sit on the porch until the rain turned them into one big sodden blob. It wouldn’t even occur to me to look in a phone book anymore. I think in a generation, they’ll be gone.

For quite a while:

Proud owner of several yellow pages ad checks in:

I pay out approx $500 per month in yellow pages ads and bring in about $2,000 a month in calls from them.

Expensive, yup, worth it, hell yeah.

In my case, a computer repair shop, internet advetising is almost pointless. People with broken computers can’t get on the internet to find me.

I do have some limited budget google ads set to only display within a 10 mile radius of my shop. So far no calls and only a handful of clickthroughs.

The neat thing is this, once you have a steady flow of work coming from repeat customers and referrals you can dial down the ads a bit if you want. I am meeting with my rep tomorrow to expand my ad for the next edition. About 10% of my business is repeats and or referrals right now.

As far as other books are concerned one of the evil things is supposedly, many people only keep the latest book they recieve. So if book A comes out in January, and book B comes out in March, the effectiveness of your book A ad will plummet after March. In my case about 75% of my calls come from the newer book. Hell I just got a call to rescue a less experienced independent tech than myself today from my yellow pages ad :cool:

The Yellow Pages here are still going strong, thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign (“Not Happy, Jan!”).

As others have said though, anyone with a PC does a Google/Sensis search to find local businesses… the Yellow Pages tends to get used as a PC Monitor rest, birdcage liner, packaging paper, and so on.

I suspect they’ll be a thing of the past by 2025- but then, it’s 2007 now and we don’t have Hovercars (the Moller Aircar doesn’t count!) or Pan Am Clipper flights to the Moon…

Yeah, me too. You mean people still look at real, physcial pieces of paper to find stuff out? Weird.

And my earlier post should have read “… It’s nearly 2007 now…” :smack:

Note to self: do not post when about to dash off to work…

That “anyone with a PC” statement is just not true though. It’s one’s attitude towards using a product that drives usage of it, not the mere fact of owning it. For some people, getting online to find a local pizza place that delivers is their preference… for others, using the phone book and looking at the menus/ads are theirs.

“The Internet” or “PC’s” won’t drive phone books out of business any more than TV drove radio out or radio drove books out. They will change the business model, might even change the nature of what’s known as “the phone book”, but the basic service will remain for quite a while.

Yes, but I don’t think TV and Radio are a valid comparison- after all, TV has pictures, whereas radio is just sound, and they’re in two different markets at the end of the day.

I stand by my prediction that the paper Yellow Pages will be gone by 2025. Using Google or Sensis or whatever is so much easier than trying to look something up in a phone book- Yellow Pages or otherwise.