Saturation Distribution…………. it’s just WRONG!
photo by Lulu Vision
It appears that the Public Relations folks at the major yellow pages directory companies are pushing folks on Twitter to use www.yellowpagesoptout.com to stop receiving copies of the printed yellow pages. Well…. TODAY is the day. I am going to call and opt out of getting the books since I no longer need to participate in “distribution surveys” for work. (I no longer work for Idearc Media / Verizon Yellow Pages & Superpages.com). Let’s see if I get anymore books.
Personally I believe that getting a phone book is a necessity for many people. I just believe it needs to be “opted in” instead of “opted out”. Although it appears the industry can afford to lobby to prevent anti solicitation and spam bills, it is apparent that consumers do not have a strong voice in the matter.
Many 3rd party websites exist where consumers are able to get involved in selecting what yellow pages media they want to receive or be “disturbed” by. Sites such as:
New research by The Kelsey Group indicates that consumer local media preferences are in transition, influenced by demographic factors, including age, income and education. The younger and more educated and affluent consumers are, the more they tend to utilize online resources at the expense of traditional media.
For example, the survey revealed that just 44% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, and only 28% of teens said they would turn to print Yellow Pages first when looking for local listings. On the other hand, 47% of these respondents said their first choice would be search engines.
“There’s a very clear age factor,” said Kelsey Group analyst Neal Polachek. He added that as consumers who are most accustomed to using the Web begin to enter their 30s, when they have more disposable income and are making bigger purchases, so too will businesses in their local advertising. “All of a sudden, you’re looking for schools, you own a house, you’re looking for mortgages — big purchase decisions. Those people will never have had the built-in habit of picking up the print Yellow Pages.”
This research illustrates the decreasing demand for printed directories and the increasing usage of search engines for local information. We should all be following the youth’s lead, not only because their methods are faster and more efficient, but to also help preserve our planet’s limited resources.
WhitePages.com sponsored site www.banthephonebook.org says:
Did you know that up to 5 million trees are cut down each year to create the white pages phone book and that taxpayers are spending $17 million each year to have these books recycled? Even more surprising is that almost 75% of consumers are completely unaware of the environmental and financial impact in printing, delivering and recycling these books. Given that you likely use online directories, social networks and mobile phone applications to find the contact information you need, it simply does not make sense to have the white pages phone books forcefully delivered to us every year.
Of course the industry asks you to go to a site it created www.yellowpagesoptout.com to opt out of directory distribution. Many have said that the site does not work as it simply asks you to spend hours on the phone attempting to tell the publisher’s you do not want a book. It has also been found that DEX does a pretty good job of following consumer wishes and leaves a nice door hanger asking you to request a phone book if you opt out (kudos to Dex for doing what people ask).
With YellowPagesOptOut the industry is apparently asking consumers to make a choice of which phone book they do want to receive if any. Maybe the PR folks at Idearc need to state, “Opt Out of Phone Books you don’t want, keep the one with the SuperGuarantee“.
In my opinion saturation distribution methods are wrong. You see, before the existence of the internet folks needed phone books. It was almost a necessity. How do consumers stop getting copies of phone books? It is not with opting out or opting in… it is by not using the phone book, disposing of it, voice opinions about it, telling businesses that advertise in it you prefer they didn’t, and rewarding publishers who do as you ask. I believe that consumers in many areas of the United States still need phone books. Most of rural America needs the phone book. Unfortunately publishers do not care about providing books based on need. Around 2006 when Verizon Yellow Pages became Idearc Media the company ceased distribution of many rural area books in the state of Texas. Why? It was not as profitable to publish these books since ad costs for smaller markets was significantly less than larger ones and a lack of sales made it a challenge to achieve profitable margins. Smaller publishers seem to make profits and produce a better product in these areas (San Angelo Tx and Bryan-College Station consumers prefer the Area Wide Directory over the Verizon Yellow Pages). Maybe it is the one size fits all approach or the “unachievable” margins the big telco publishers are attempting to receive?
Regardless of how print publishers react to a change in consumer behavior (this change has been taking place since the birth of the internet…. it is not like they have not had enough warning to react) going forward, it is up to consumer’s and advertisers to stop receiving phone books. Publisher’s will continue to lobby our elected officials and will also continue with the “saturation distribution” method. I used to think this issue would fix itself in a “supply and demand” fashion, but it is apparent that supply/demand does not always work, especially when media ad costs may justify cost of distribution. The consumers that do not want the product are forced to get it because some consumers do use the product and advertisers profit from this.
I don’t think I am the only one that believes a yellow page “distribution by subscription” method would be a wise strategy. If you want to increase value, find out who really does use your product. In the hands of the right target market the yellow pages is a very powerful product. I have always told my clients that if you want to be the best website on the internet, become an authority. The best websites are subscribed to. The best magazines are subscribed to. The best TV shows are TIVO’d or subscribed to. The best phone books will also be requested and subscribed to. I would love to be an advertiser in a phone book were the consumer actually requested the product.
BTW, how much is a phone book worth to a recycling company? If I recall the amount of glue in the spine makes it a challenge to recycle.
Additional Yellow Pages Industry Facts
* North American Yellow Pages Print Distribution: 540 million directories
* Global Industry Revenue: $26 billion
* U.S. Industry Revenue: $14 billion
* Revenue from printed directories: 97%
* Revenue from online directories: 3%
There are over 7,000 different titles of Yellow Pages, including competing industry-specific, ethnic-targeted, and “underlay” or neighborhood-specific titles. There are no strict rules, other than market demand, limiting the number of Yellow Pages titles to be printed in a single market. For example, this year in Southern California, it is possible that a person could have over 10 Yellow Pages directories dropped on their doorstep from 10 different publishers. It is also noteworthy that with a distribution of 540 million, there are more directories dropped than the entire population of North America. This industry practice is called “saturation distribution.”
What is “Saturation Distribution”?
In the past, anyone with a landline automatically received a printed copy of the Yellow Pages. But today, with the landline exodus to mobile phones, and considering drops at large apartment buildings or corporate campuses, directory publishers use “Saturation Distribution” to ensure that enough printed copies are available. This means that an over-estimated number of copies are dropped to ensure that everyone gets a copy. Even more waste.
The Biggest Players in the Yellow Pages Game:
RANK MEDIA COMPANY NET DIRECTORY REVENUE
1 SBC Communications $3.8 Billion
2 Verizon Communications $3.6 Billion
3 BellSouth Corp. $2.0 Billion
4 Dex Media $1.7 Billion
5 Yellow Book USA (Yell Group) $1.1 Billion
If you want to share your thoughts directly with the Yellow Pages Association:
Yellow Pages Association (YPA)
Two Connell Drive, First Floor
Berkeley Heights, N.J. 07922-2747
(908) 286-0620 (Fax)
Mr. Negley (Neg) Norton
President, Yellow Pages Association (YPA)