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The recent hubbub over our “prediction” regarding print media usage — see my earlier blog — has created an exaggerated picture of the perils facing print Yellow Pages. While it is true print YP has some serious challenges, we often forget how well it still works for so many local businesses. Three recent personal experiences drove this point home to me.

1. On Christmas night, as I was sipping eggnog, someone backed into my car. The following day I picked up the phone book, called one auto repair shop in San Rafael, CA, and two days later the shop had authorization for a $2,500 repair. I am pretty certain that my single repair job paid for the entire month of print YP advertising for that auto shop.

2. My second lovely Christmas present was that a family of rats decided they liked our warm and cozy house. Time to pick up the print Yellow Pages once again. Out came the pest control technician to help us manage our new house guests. I asked the owner today how his Yellow Pages ad was working. His first comment was “not very well … you can’t believe how expensive it is.” So I asked him if he tracks his calls and of course the answer was nope, but he did know that most of his calls came from his Yellow Pages ad. Maybe it will take a couple of other houses on my block to pay for the month’s $2,000 Yellow Pages ad, but they now have me on the hook for $150 a month service. I’d say he’s not likely to downsize his ad anytime soon.

3. Finally, our third charming present this Christmas season was a stopped-up toilet. I know the model here. The guys come out and they don’t leave until they’ve lifted $500 for me for two hours of sewer cleaning. If they fill three two-hour slots per day, from the Yellow Pages ad, they’re breakeven by the first Tuesday morning of every month.

So, is print Yellow Pages usage declining? We have consistently said it is in decline and we will continue to collect data to inform our view. Is declining print Yellow Pages usage a problem for the print Yellow Pages industry? You bet it is. They know it and are adjusting their models and approaches every day to manage through a difficult transition period. Are advertisers going to desert the book en masse? Only if they’re looking to sabotage their own business. Look at all the Christmas presents I shared this holiday.

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