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It wasn’t all that long ago that most Americans’ fingers took at least one weekly “walk” through the Yellow Pages (YP), those massive directories plunked on our doorsteps at the same time every year by the local phone company. Although many of us still receive printed books, they’re mere shadows of their former selves as the search function has gone digital in a big way – and many are merely tossed into landfills, recycled, or stuck in the back of a drawer somewhere.

That’s not to say that the former YP publishers have rolled over and gone away. They all boast some online presence and are now competing with online search companies for the dollars they previously enjoyed as a virtual monopoly in most markets.

Database and directory publishers generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of print advertising space. Due to changing consumer preferences, digital media has increasingly replaced print media as a source of news and entertainment. Businesses have reduced investment in print advertisements, shifting their focus to digital publication advertisements. This shift has impacted industry revenue and forced operators to increasingly publish online.

  • According to eMarketer, directory advertising (print only) was $4.25 billion in 2016 and is projected $4.08 billion in 2017.

    • The latest statistics available on print and digital search come from a Burke study conducted for the Local Search Association in 2016, released in March 2017.  According to this research:
      • 35% of American adults have used Print Yellow Pages (PYP) and 43% have used Internet Yellow Pages to look up information or learn about a product or service (past year). (IYP)
        • 22% of adults referred to the PYP in the past month
        • 27% referred to the IYP in the past month month
        • 16% referred to the PYP in the past week
        • 18% referred to the IYP in the past week
        • 2% referred to the PYP yesterday
        • 2% referred to the IYP yesterday

        (Source: Burke study for Local Search Association – 2016, published 3/17)

        • While the Yellow Pages directories were at one time a regular source for consumers seeking information on businesses and local services, the digitally connected world in 2015 has hugely expanded choices for accessing information and has taken search to mobile consumer. Consumers in cars and on the street can quickly access information through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing -- and those are just starting points.

        • Consumers have numerous options to learn about local businesses and services:
          • Only 36% of local searchers start with a search engine
            • Visited specific sites on the subject (15%)
            • Read customer reviews (7%)
            • Looked for locations through online directory (6%)
            • Reviewed content about product/service (5%)
            • Searched from a mapping app (4%)
            • Read professional reviews (4%)
            • Used a reservation booking app (3%)

          (Source: (Source: IDC survey of 750 US adults (18-44), 80% were smartphone owners -2016)

          • Consumers place search engines at the top for local search activities compared to other sources:
            • Is the source I trust the most for finding local business information
              • Search Engines – 37%
              • Paper Yellow Pages – 9%
              • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 7%
              • Internet Yellow Pages – 4%
              • Internet Social Networks – 2%
              • Daily Deals Sites – 1%
            • Is the most accurate source for finding local business information
              • Search Engines – 32%
              • Paper Yellow Pages – 10%
              • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 7%
              • Internet Yellow Pages – 5%
              • Internet Social Networks – 2%
              • Daily Deals Sites – 1%
            • Is the source I turn to when ready to make a purchase
              • Search Engines – 24%
              • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 9%
              • Paper Yellow Pages – 5%
              • Internet Yellow Pages – 3%
              • Daily Deals Sites – 3%
              • Internet Social Networks – 2%

            (Source: Burke study for Local Search Association – 2016, published 3/17)