Leaders of the U.S. independent directory publishing industry were passionate in their defense of print media at this morning’s opening session of the Association of Directory Publishers meeting outside Houston, Texas. Jim Hail, the outgoing chair and head of Idaho-based Hagadone Directories, declared “Print is not dead!” He argued that the industry has become too apologetic about print and should take a much bolder posture in defending it in the media, where it continues to take a pretty vicious beating.
To bolster his point, Hail held up a recent Wall Street Journal article that details an effort by the magazine industry to embrace the “power of print.” Rather than accept its demise to digital, the magazine industry decided to run a campaign that basically says, at least where magazines are concerned, the print experience is superior. One tagline example, “The Internet is fleeting. Magazines are immersive.”
Hail was not impressed so much by the “esoteric” messaging but by the gumption the magazine industry has shown by saying, in effect, our old product is awesome, so deal with it. He wants the Yellow Pages industry to do the same thing.
“We need a consortium of publishers for an ad campaign … to tout the inherent strength of our medium,” Hail said.
Of course, Hail is aware that this call has been made many times before and never executed successfully. Joe Walsh, speaking after Hail, offered a somewhat different take. He said that while he has always favored a Yellow Pages version of the “Got Milk” campaign, he thinks it is “too late now” for any such effort to be effective.
He says the sense of print Yellow Pages as a passe medium has been fully baked into the public consciousness, “and we may not be able to reverse it.” Plus, he says there is no appetite among the major publishers to fund any such effort.
That said, Walsh sees some modest signs of improvement in the performance of Yellow Pages. He says his internal metrics show growing print usage, which he ascribes to an improving economy.