Who still uses yellow pages? San Francisco has even banned delivery without permission, assuming no one wants them. But a yellow pages industry group has a new survey saying that yellow pages are more trusted, more widely used and perceived by consumers to be more accurate when it comes to local information than search engines and social networks.
The San Francisco Ban
San Francisco has effectively banned print yellow pages delivery. The city recently passed an ordinance that requires residents to “opt-in” to receive print yellow pages. In other words, if they don’t ask for the books, they won’t get them on their doorsteps.
The ordinance is fueled in part by the perception that people no longer use or want the print yellow pages. San Francisco says it’s trying to reduce waste and “blight.”
The Local Search Association, formerly the Yellow Pages Association, says the ordinance unfairly targets one advertising medium and has sued. Though conducted before the ordinance was past, a new study from the LSA gives it some pro-yellow pages findings.
Yearly Usage Nearly Matches Search; Monthly Much Less
The study, conducted by research firm Burke among 8,000 US adults over a year long period, gave yellow pages (combined print and internet) more usage that internet search engines, with 84% saying they used either print or internet yellow pages over the past year to find a local business, versus 76% who said they used a search engine.
Print yellow pages on their own weren’t that far behind, at 74%:
For usage over the past month, search engines came out on top with 67%, with combined online/offline yellow pages just behind at 62%. Print yellow pages were much further behind, 55%, according to the survey.
As for social networks, they were used only 32% of the time over the past year and 23% of the time in the past month to find a local business.
Printed White & Yellow Pages Slightly Lead On Trust Metrics
The survey also looked at perceptions of trust, accuracy and other subjective factors. Print directories (yellow and white pages) edged out search engines as being more trusted, 45% to 41% — and social networks were far behind at 1%.
For accuracy, print directories were again ahead at 45%, followed by search engines just behind at 39% — and social networks barely registering at 2%.
Print directories were also found easier and more convenient than search engines (46% to 39%), though the gap closed on questions of which is used first (print 45%; search engines 42%) and getting “best in class” local information (print 44%; search engines 42%). In all these questions, social networks only gained 2%.
I was not involved in the research and so don’t have the verbatim questions. My sense, however, is that the strong legacy “brand” association between yellow pages and local is partly driving these results.
There is, of course, the obvious concern that any survey paid for by an organization might seem slanted to favor that organization’s aims. But the survey actually isn’t that favorable to pure print yellow pages, which were found used far less than search engines. On trust metrics, for whatever reason, no “pure print yellow pages” figures are provided — and the combined white/yellow pages figures aren’t that dramatically better than search engines.
Meaningful Demographic Differences
The study showed demographic usage differences by age, income, education and residential location.
Age: Those under 34 were more likely to turn to search engines for local information; those over 55 were more likely to use print yellow pages or other traditional media such as newspapers.
Rural/City: Print yellow pages are more popular with rural residents that suburban or city residents.
Gender: Men turn to search engines more than women.
Education: Those with more than high school education were more inclined to use search engines or online yellow pages.
Income: Those with higher incomes ($60,000+) tend to use search engines than printed yellow pages and traditional print media.
On average the study also found that consumers use two to three sources when researching local businesses.
There were 11 billion print yellow pages “references” and 5.6 billion internet yellow pages searches in 2010. Google, by comparison, generates just over 2 billion local searches per month on the PC.
I offer some additional analysis on my personal blog Screenwerk.