I had to chuckle as I read a report today from the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association) that claimed the massive and continuing decline in yellow book usage is good for the earth’s ecosystem because it sacrifices fewer trees. It’s an exercise in glass-half-full thinking worthy of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
I’m a member of the LSA so I probably shouldn’t be too mean, but a couple of months ago I attended the Borell group meetings in New York where the great and the good of the media world assembled to eat bad hotel food and lament the decline of traditional media. Execs with different tales of woe from newspapers, yellow books, radio and TV discussed the continuing challenges of the migration to online. Some players like Dex One lead by the magnificent David Sharman have embraced the challenge and made online lemonade out of digital lemons. Most are trying really hard with varying degrees of success substituting digital dimes for paper dollars.
Interestingly, there seems to be a kind of stalemate between the online pure plays like Cars.com and Realtor.com versus traditional media. Each has cornered about half of their respective markets and are working on ways to build a shaky peace that can benefit them all. But the unspeakable was spoken at that conference. Given the current 18% year-over year-decline, yellow books have about five years before they cease to matter, and all those trees will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.