Canada’s Yellow Pages Group announced today that print residential White Pages directories are now being distributed on a by-request-only basis in its largest urban markets — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa-Gatineau and Quebec City. This move does not affect print Yellow Pages, which will continue to be distributed to all homes and businesses in these markets.
This decision was all but inevitable, given the increasing obsolescence of residential White Pages, particularly in large metro markets. YPG signaled it was moving in this direction back in 2005, when it moved to a 24-month distribution cycle for print residential White Pages.
On a related note, The New York Times reported recently that Verizon is asking New York state regulators for permission to discontinue production of residential White Pages, which it says is only used by one in nine consumers. The move, if approved, would save about 5,000 tons of paper annually.
These examples reflect the broader industry trend of eliminating residential White Pages as quickly as regulators will allow, largely to reduce costs, but also to diffuse some of the bad press telecoms and directory publishers receive for pushing too much unwanted paper into the marketplace. For Yellow Pages publishers, the risk is that eliminating White Pages will only embolden those who want to see the same thing happen to print Yellow Pages and business White Pages.
Currently, the industry is fighting a bill in California that would impose very strict opt-out rules on residential White Pages. The industry has argued that the measure is too harsh and imposes criminal sanctions for violations. The directory industry has also followed a strategy of combating all such legislation, while offering self-regulation as an alternative to legislation.