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San Fran SMB’s Fight to Keep Yellow Pages

There was a day where the Yellow Pages phone directory had a coveted spot in every home and phone booth. These days, however, a huge number of phone directories go straight from the doorstep to the trashcan.

The Product Stewardship Institute estimates that phone books create 660,000 tons of waste per year and because they’re printed on low-grade paper, recycling isn’t easy. That’s why San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has proposed a bill to stop the unsolicited drop off of these books. He’s suggesting that instead of an opt-out program, Yellow Pages delivery would be an opt-in program and that’s a big difference.

Neg Norton, president of the Yellow Pages Association told The Wall Street Journal that “Chiu has ‘significantly undervalued the value that Yellow Pages delivers to the city of San Francisco.’ San Francisco Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve Falk agreed saying that the Yellow Pages represent an important marketing tool for small businesses, especially those without a website. Falk is backed by a coalition of local business owners who are speaking out against the proposal.

It’s an odd fight. The SMB’s are responding as if that reduced number of books would reduce the number of people who see their ads, but dropping 10,000 books on doorsteps around the city doesn’t mean 10,000 people are using them.

With Chiu’s proposal people who need a phone book would still get one and the city would get a breather from the tonnage of waste. That’s got to be a win all around.

What do you think? Will Chiu’s proposal actually hurt local small business, or is this an idea that should be put in place all across the US?

  • ann

    There is also an opt out for junk mail delivered to your homes daily. If you compare the volume of junk mail to phone books in a single year junk mail wins hands down. Plus the percentage of junk mail going to the trash or recycling is much higher than a single phone book. The directory is an information resource. Besides, do any of us know the long term effects of electronics notbonly on the environment, but on our bodies and health?

  • http://www.ematters.nl Wouter

    Yellow Pages arn’t red by anyone anymore neither are there websites delivering any real quality. Yellow Pages are only focused on getting a lot of (bad) traffic to there website so they can sell that to advertisers that haven’t realized they dont get real value for there money. The real shift direcoties should make is puting the profit of there customers in front instead of off there one. Mabey they should reed “What would Google do”

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    There remain a significant number of families in this country who lack Internet access. Add to that stratum another layer of families who still don’t use Google and Bing to look up every name, address, and telephone numbers.

    Those people probably still need telephone books.

    Frankly, I think better targeting and marketing by the yellow book people would resolve this conflict because they DON’T need to be sending ME any more phone books.

  • http://www.paulcampagna.com paul

    My problem with the yellow pages is that there are way to many scams associated with people claiming they are from yellow pages. They say they are from the yellow pages and want to verify information, then weeks later send you a bill and say they have you recorded saying you agreed to something (paying them money), that you never did agree to.

    Then they call for months trying to collect. They really spliced you saying “Yes” about your address, or phone number into them asking you, “Do you agree to these charges” (splice in you saying yes here)…

    Besides me having to deal with rip off people using their name, i have not needed the yellow pages in many, many, many years. It’s worthless to 90% of people, so opting in is a wonderful idea.

  • http://ieyellow.com Salg Gonzalez

    I understand why some of my collegues would think that opting-in makes good sense. I, for one, have seen marketing trends come and go. We need to know that there is a large demographic over a certain age, that are not familar and/ or comfortable with all the technology thats out there. I’m driven by success and knowing that the leading edge can be wrong more times the not. And being innovative is important for long term growth. As marketing entrepeneurs we need to see the ways different demographics purchase products and services, or we probably will negatively impact the purchasing power of this group, consumers are not all the same. The print Yellow Pages are still a very important way for the older demographic to aquire all types of information. My concern is we cut out this important consumer group. I for one, plan on using all new and old ways in marrying consumers with buyers to the best advantage for my clents.