The long term life expectancy of the print Yellow Pages…

Kelsey Group (Kelsey Group is the leading provider of strategic research and analysis, data and competitive metrics on Yellow Pages, electronic directories, local search, SMB advertising and local media) run a group on

linkedinLinked In where I saw the following question today:
What is the long term life expectancy of the print Yellow Pages. Please state your opinion in years and facts that promted you to come up with that conclusion.
So I felt compelled to respond:

Two thoughts for the group:

1. I use Twitter ( and Tweet Beep ( to hear all the comments that are made about Yellow Pages. I would say that 95% of the comments are about the wastage they feel they are creating by taking the 4 thick directories that they have dropped on their door step each year and putting them straight in the bin. Irrespective of the fact the directory may be printed on recycled paper, they want to opt out and not receive them at all. The caveat on this comment being that Twitter users are heavily internet savvy, unlike other parts of the population. The ‘take out’ however is that this group is growing and they want choice.

2. When does advertising become information? And then at what point are people prepared to pay for advertising because it is information they want. This is a subtle twist in the new world we are living in. The old ways are no longer good enough, we all expect not to be sold to on a mass basis, we expect to seek, easily find, choose and then engage. Or alternatively to be targeted with products and services that meet our current requirements exactly eg the right brand, the right price, the right time, the right personal referral…

In conclusion what I am sure of is that Yellow Pages as they currently stand have no future unless they radically re-invent themselves. I am positive that there is still a place for a printed product, distributed to certain people promoting certain types of businesses in certain areas – almost on a personalized basis and possibly including additional types of information.

And regarding on-line, well I have to confess an interest here as I am one of the founders of, where we have turned the current ‘centrally produced, centrally sold’ YP model upside down – we encourage everyone to instantly edit our data, just like Wikipedia, and now we are rewarding people who contribute to Brownbook with 20% of the life time value of our customers. All our customers self-service and pay via Paypal. We have the benefit of no legacy cost model, no shareholders that are demanding a return to the halcyon days, no debt, and no highly profitable cash cow. We are pioneering a new way with really interactive, engaging and innovative products for businesses on a very low or no cost basis. This is where we see the future…