Phone Books are Dead

The prediction that phone books would be gone forever has been around for a decade.  Are they dead yet?  I say yes.  That doesn’t mean that they aren’t around or being published, it just means that they don’t actually DO anything related to their intended purpose.

Business hope that their advertisement will drive new business to their doors, but I’ve found that is rarely the case.  Most small business owners have abandoned the phone books entirely – they have small budgets and have to be frugal.  The businesses who remain are those who have deeper pockets and not a clue as to whether or not their advertisement is profitable.

When was the last time you opened a phone book?  I’ll bet it has been years, unless you have an ad in one – then you would be one of the few cracking them open just to see what your ad looks like.

The funny thing is, there are still arguments that they still work.  How can they?

  • The White Pages listings shrink exponentially year by year as people dump their land lines and rely solely on their cell phones.
  • The Yellow Pages advertisements continue to shrink as well, leaving only a few advertisers in each category.  If you’re looking for a dentist, do you really want to look in the place with the fewest ads?
  • The information is outdated the minute it goes to print.  Think print encyclopedias.  Mine still had pre-Soviet era maps and a technology section that ended with the invention of the micro chip.
  • We’re used to going online to learn stuff and find information.  To resort to a phone book to find a telephone number or business location is as useful as trying to find a pay phone to use to call that number.

But the salespeople are still out in force using the tired old arguments “It’s so much more economical than radio or TV” or “your competitors are in there, do you want to be the only one left out?”

Because radio or TV may be more of a waste than a phone book advertisement, does that mean the phone book is a good idea because its less of a waste?

Because everyone else is doing it.. does that mean that you should trust their lack of ability to gauge its effectiveness and just follow suit?

Being a once a year publication means that you have one chance to get it right.  No testing, split testing, etc.  One chance.  Online we can test hundreds of ads in a week and make them more profitable each time.  No guessing, no hoping.

The sales people say phone books are still alive and well.  No, they’re dead alright, just lurking in the shadows, in garbage dumps, in recycle bins, used as door stops and a number of creative uses – none of them remotely relating to their intended purpose.