Directory inquiries: Does the Yellow Pages have a future?


Once a billion dollar company, critics say the nation’s most widely distributed publication is now a redundant and unnecessary throwback to the pre-digital age. But now under new management, the Yellow Pages have a digital plan. What is the future of the once ubiquitous directory whose fortune mirrors that of the news media?

Photo: RNZ / Mediawatch

Households in and around Auckland recently got the Yellow Pages on their doorstep – but not everyone is happy to get another copy of the distinctive book that has been occupying space in nearly every home across the country for decades. decades.

Comedian Urzila Carlson, for example:

The Yellow Pages are the butt of many gags like this in the internet age, but recently critics have also objected to them being unsolicited, unwanted, unnecessary and unnecessary.

Two years ago, the online news service Crux – which covers Queenstown and the Southern Lake District – reported that many readers were against the mass delivery of the Yellow Pages on the grounds of waste.

He said more than 14,000 people in Auckland chose not to receive delivery in 2018 – and he posted the link online for his own readers to follow suit.

TVNZ Seven pointed Show host Jeremy Wells recently described the Yellow Pages as “abandoned like 10-80 telecoms” across the country.

This was after Aucklander Geoff Neal used the online business networking platform LinkedIn to call for an end to the unsolicited delivery after he said he found dozens of unclaimed copies in his building.

Neal – an independent small business advisor – also claimed that thousands of yellow pages end up in landfill every year and illustrated his post with a photographed image of them being bulldozed at a landfill.

He begged the major media organizations to pick up the story – and they did.

He said Seven pointed books should only be delivered to households on request, as hundreds of tons of yellow pages end up in landfills each year.

Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan said she was the one to “throw it in the trash because who needs it?” when she interviewed Geoff Neal about the matter.

National environmental spokesperson Scott Simpson also told ZB it is time for Yellow to change its business model.

But the Yellow Pages fought back – accusing Neal of “alternative facts” and creating misleading images.

We didn’t like the fake news – this waste statistic is done “Said new CEO of Yellow Holdings, Tracey Taylor Mediawatch.

“Books are 100% recyclable and made from waste. No trees are cut down or damaged during the making of books. Even plastic wrap is recyclable, ”Taylor said.

“Our distribution is through charities only, so approximately $ 1 million is donated to charities each year,” she said.

Another aspect of the Yellow Pages was missing from the media debate – the emergency information published in each issue.

Tracy Taylor said Mediawatch this is considered an essential service by the government which has a contract with Yellow Pages to provide it.

“It’s about giving everyone equal access. This is hyper-localized information in every directory – emergency, medicine, police, counseling, addiction assistance, government services, community co-op services, and other essential contact points, ”Taylor said.

“This is important when you consider the range of ages, abilities and internet access. Not everyone has super-fast broadband. The web doesn’t always work when it comes to looking for something or someone in your local community, ”she said.

Taylor said 180,000 businesses across New Zealand advertised in the Yellow Pages and data from Neilsen Research showed there were millions of searches – and four in five people took a survey.

Old billion dollar company is adjusting

Yellow CEO Tracey Taylor on TVNZ's Seven Sharp defending the Yellow Pages from criticism.

Yellow CEO Tracey Taylor on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp defending the Yellow Pages from criticism.
Photo: screenshot / TVNZ Seven Sharp

Back then, Yellow Pages was not afraid of just one small business advisor because it was a very large company.

Telecom sold it to a private equity firm in 2007 for a staggering $ 2.2 billion. (By comparison, Stuff’s precursor INL was sold for $ 1.1 billion in 2003 to Fairfax Media, which then paid $ 750 million for Trade Me in 2006).

But since then, the boom in free, easy-to-find online information has steadily declined in profits and scale.

In fact, the same dilemma as our newspaper publishers: a legacy print product that is well known but suffers because of Google and Facebook and other online services.

In the NBR in February, journalist Julie Isles said that while people have been predicting the end of directory companies for 10 years, their demise has been slow.

And like the news media, they made an effort to reach out to what they couldn’t beat

The Fairfax Trade Me deal was the biggest game of its kind and the New Zealand HeraldThe publisher of NZME has more recently embarked on the directory game as part of a joint venture with the online service Localist. But Localist has been in liquidation since September of last year, with owners citing the presence of Yellow Pages as the reason.

Leading Norwegian news publisher Schibsted invested heavily in online directories and sales platforms from the mid-1990s. The success of several companies in Norway and other countries since then has drained its news business and offset the decline in newspaper advertising.

If you can’t beat them. . .

After many changes in ownership and management, the company has now partnered with Google, the very company that gutted its business model.

Yellow Pages has become a digital marketing agency. In addition to listing companies in his book, he now creates marketing strategies for new and established business clients in all media.

In 2018, she bought an existing digital agency and a half stake in an app called MyTask.

“We have to adapt to the way customers use the media. Not every platform is for every business and I think every digital agency should have a print option. If we think outside of cities, there is a very different landscape to consider, ”Taylor said.

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