Traditionally, when one is looking for a product or service and doesn’t know what company to call, or would like a list of companies to choose from, he or she would turn to the yellow pages. Once solely the domain of the phone company, yellow pages style directories are now printed by several different companies in many areas and distributed to people’s doorsteps a few times a year. Basic style listings are generally free, but things like bold print and display ads cost extra for the companies that wish to stand out. And in fact, that revenue is how the yellow pages publishers offset the cost of printing and distribution, and hopefully turn a profit.
Sadly, for companies that are clinging to their directory business as the sole means of profit, those days are slowly coming to an end. With the advent of the internet, many people now opt do a quick search on any of the multitudes of business directory websites to easily find the business they’re looking for. Sure, there are many holdouts that still like to flip through their copy of the yellow pages. I myself admit to keeping a copy in the house, although I may not be able to locate it 100% of the time. But as the Baby Boomer generation dies off and is supplanted by Generation X, more and more internet-savvy consumers make up mainstream society. This means less circulation, and thus relevance, for yellow book directories.
One reason for this is that internet directories are updated much quicker than print directories, which is a function of the need for printing and distribution of the latter. So with internet directories the consumer is mostly assured of getting up to date information. This contrasts with printed directories, which are out of date as soon as they’re printed. Since these directories are generally printed only once a year, or at the most, several times a year, changes in local businesses are not communicated to the consumer as quickly as they are over the internet.
Another reason for the rise in internet directories and the corresponding fall of yellow books is the convenience of searching via the web. If a person has his or her favorite directory site bookmarked, all he or she has to do is click the link for that site, enter the keyword and city of the desired product or service, and a list of companies matching the entered information will appear, complete with addresses, phone numbers, and usually even a link where one can click and automatically get directions to the business. This is opposed to having to find the printed yellow pages directory, flipping through it until the correct category is found, and then having to figure out where each business is located, which may not be evident just from the address indicated.
As more and more services are moving online, it is only a matter of time before yellow pages style directories completely die off and are totally supplanted by the internet. With quicker updating of new information, and the overall convenience of internet directories, print directories have become an anachronism, and will one day be relegated to the Smithsonian Institution rather than on a shelf in people’s kitchens.