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March 31, 2014

It's time to say #YellNo to paper directories

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Published: 31 March 2014 

For years people have been heralding the death of the Yellow Pages. Yet, here we are once again in 2014 tripping over the all too familiar books on our door steps. What was once a useful advertising platform and directory is now a huge waste of paper and marketing budget for businesses of all sizes. It’s well and truly time to say NO to the Yellow Pages.

When was the last time you or someone you knew used the Yellow Pages? In a country where 83% of households have access to the internet and over 30 million mobile phones are in use, the value of a print directory is shaky at best.

Continuing to distribute print directories to every home and business across Australia in this day and age is like flogging a dead horse. Well, 40,000 dead horses if you consider how many tonnes of paper Yellow Pages use each year (based on the fact that an average sized horse weighs 500kg and 1 tonne=1000kg).

As it stands, the Yellow Pages currently deliver over 20,000 tonnes of paper to homes and businesses across Australia. Although Sensis openly say 67% of the paper used in their print directories is made from recycled paper, they also report that 98% of the directories are recycled. That means 19 thousand tonnes of those unused directories each year are being processed through recycling plants, producing chemical waste from the de-inking process, using water to break the paper down, and energy throughout the pulping process. All for a product that only a small proportion of the country ever even unwraps from its plastic.

So what’s the point? Well, according to Sensis every year 'nearly all Australian households and businesses’ use their directories to connect with businesses, services, government departments, individuals and local information. But who are these people and why do we constantly see piles and piles of unused yellow pages sitting stagnant on the street?

Significantly fewer businesses are investing in print directory advertising to promote their products and services, leading to a 25.6% drop in Yellow Pages’ print revenues in 2013.

The wider community data supports this decline. In a very small vox pop of Matter Solutions’ staff social networks we came up with one person who actually used the paper directory, a handful of people who searched online occasionally. The vast majority had already used the opt-out system available at to stop their Yellow and White Pages being delivered to their home. A quick Google search reveals dozens of other marketers, business people and media outlets predicting the imminent demise of this antiquated marketing tactic.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when the Yellow Pages were a great print directory and advertising platform for businesses. But let’s face it - it’s looking less and less like that time is the present.

Our own business development manager, Pat, has worked in other advertising industries including television and radio.

“I would hear it all the time from business owners ‘Yellow pages, doesn’t work, I’m cutting my spend this year.’ But when I asked them why they didn’t cut their Yellow spend altogether the response would invariably be ‘I’m too afraid not to have something in there… I don’t want to let my competitors have a free hit.’'

Hmmm… Fear and paranoia. The foundation of every good marketing decision.

seo-meme-dwight-office source

Some people he spoke to were cutting their spend from $50-60k down to $20-30k. If you’re not getting a result for $50k in advertising costs… there’s something wrong with that medium.

Imagine spending even $20-30k on some kind of other marketing that actually got a result?

We’re not saying the Yellow Pages is all bad. In fact, the online Yellow Pages directory may even help your small business with Google rankings through a free listing that points to your website. Yellow Pages online also generates exposure - in 2012, 110 million people visited the website. There’s a good chance that at some point in the year one of those visitors will be searching for a product or service that you offer.

It’s just a shame that the persistent existence of their print directories casts a shadow over their somewhat useful, and more environmentally responsible online services.


So how about it - is it a #yellno from you? If you were to stop advertising in the Yellow Pages Directories this year, where else could you direct those marketing dollars?

Want to put the Yellow Pages out of their misery? Share your thoughts and creative re-uses for paper directories on Facebook, Google+,or #yellno on your chosen social network.




Ben Maden

Read more posts by Ben

4 comments on “It's time to say #YellNo to paper directories”

  1. Hi Ben, nice article. I completely agree, although I think that the main reasons why the big yellow book is still in existence are because of pushy sales tactics from their cold callers and a traditional reliance on the book from local tradesmen - decorators, roofers, etc.

    I think consumers might still use the book to find them too, as I'm sure many workers in these industries don't have the time or resource to advertise themselves online. Hopefully even if the local businesses stick with Yellow Pages, they will slowly (or quickly if they're losing 25% print revenue a year) be moved online instead.

  2. Also, asking Yellow Pages to do you google rankings is a VERY BAD idea. They really don't have people who are experienced in this or even care about using the right keywords. In fact, it can HURT your google ranking.

    Generally it's just a waste of money to spend anything with Yellow Pages.

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