Demise of printed Yellow Pages would free up ad dollars

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By Marc Wilson
TownNews.com

A panel of industry experts predicts that printed Yellow Page directories will be dead within five years – freeing up about $9 billion in annual advertising expenditures.

Nine out of 10 panelists agree that printed directories will cease to exist, according to Borrell Associates, which released the survey in July.

Separate from the panelists’ predictions, Borrell Associates has predicted that printed directories will see a 30.3 percent decline in revenues over the next five years.

“These advertising dollars are not going to go away,” said CEO Gordon Borrell. “These dollars will be spent elsewhere. They are up for grabs.” 

According to the Borrell Associates findings, 54 percent of the panelists believe printed Yellow Page directories will die within the next three to five years.

The Borrell research uses the Delphi Method of gathering data. For full disclosure, the writer is one of the panelists.

Another 12 percent believed the books will die within one to two years, while 29 percent said they thought printed directories will die within 11 to 20 years.

Only 2 percent believed the printed Yellow Page directories will last 20 years or more.

Borrell said a telling sign of a shift in the industry is the fact that the Yellow Page Association recently renamed itself the “Local Search Association.”

The Yellow Page directory business peaked at about $14 billion annually, and reported $9.2 billion in revenues in 2010, Borrell said.

“Markets with multiple directories will soon have only one, and that final directory may soon die, too,” he said.

In a separate recent report, ComScore reported local online Internet search results climbed 15 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Neg Norton, president of the Local Search Association, said convenience, trust and brand are all important in attracting search users and advertisers.

“Local search providers that offer all three attributes to the consumer will be in a good position to deliver to the advertiser,” Norton said.

This convergence of trends can be good news for newspapers.

With billions of dollars up for grabs – and classifieds, pre-prints and legal advertising in newspapers at risk – it is more vital than ever for papers to be players in online and mobile Yellow Pages advertising.

Marc Wilson is chief executive officer of TownNews.com.