The Yellow Pages Association just released the industry’s annual usage numbers. The good news is overall usage continues to grow for the industry and Internet Yellow Pages usage is increasing … the not so good news is continued decline in usage for the print product.
While usage for the print product has been declining since 2002, the number of references is still extremely large — 14.5 billion compared with 14.6 billion in 2004. The decline in print references is offset by the increase in IYP — 1.8 billion references compared with 1.5 billion in 2004. For those of you who know me, I always say, "if you don’t cannibalize your own product, someone else will" … and it looks like the industry is following that philosophy by stemming usage decline for print by offering the growing IYP.
Unlike most other media, the people who are using Yellow Pages are proactively going to the products to seek out information. For more than 70 percent of the references, people are shopping and indicate they can be influenced by the ads. For the past 20 years, the number of people who purchased or plan to purchase a product or service after referring to Yellow Pages products has been more than 85 percent.
Another interesting finding is that IYP usage is greater in A counties (those with the largest populations), where broadband penetration tends to be highest. Print usage is indexed higher in B and C counties. While Yellow Pages usage tends to be highest for consumers with life events, we see that the format of product used may be influenced by where the consumer lives … and access to broadband. Perhaps the industry should start tracking broadband penetration as an indicator of IYP growth.
In looking at other media, the results for Yellow Pages are much more positive than those for the newspaper industry, which continues to lose readers. The decline in readership of print newspapers continues, and while readership of the Internet versions of newspapers continues to increase, this does not offset the decrease from print. Circulation of print newspapers also continues to decline, with forecasts indicating a 19.5 percent decrease from 2005 to 2010.
So while some in the Yellow Pages industry may grumble about the usage numbers, realize that other media are suffering more and have a harder time proving value.