seems like broadband penetration and the proliferation of media channels
are really changing consumption habits - finally. I feel like 2004
is a turning point year, where we're going to see consumer habits
changing because of the level of control they will have over incoming
Carla Hendra, president of OgilvyOne, in Adweek (December 2003)
want to find things easily, and going to boot up your computer isn't
easy. Maybe with broadband, it will change. But I am not sure that
is going to happen, because it means that someone needs to think,
and people inherently don't like to think. Therefore, they will take
the easiest way."
Burton Michaels, SRI/Knowledge Networks, in an interview with
The Kelsey Group (January 2004)
two statements above reflect some of the fundamental differences in
the points of view expressed about the current state and future path
of printed Yellow Pages usage. On the one hand, in a view represented
by Ms. Hendra, there is the assumption that increasingly capable information-gathering
technology namely ubiquitous high-speed Internet is
quickly rendering the trusted printed Yellow Pages obsolete. In fairness,
Ms. Hendra wasn't talking about Yellow Pages. Yet her view reflects
the faith in the power of bandwidth inherent to the pro-technology
basic premise behind the technology argument is that as access to
the Internet becomes faster and more pervasive, particularly in the
home, usage will reach a tipping point at which more lookups will
occur online than offline. Adding to the inevitability of this tipping
point is a generational shift in which younger consumers are raised
on Google, instant messaging (IM) and Short Message Service (SMS).
To this emerging generation, the printed Yellow Pages is a quaint
other end of the spectrum, reflected in Mr. Michael's comment, is
that technology has yet to create a better alternative to printed
Yellow Pages - at least for finding businesses locally. Ingrained
consumer behavior is routinely underestimated, and the dot.com bust
certainly gave this point of view a powerful argument. What erosion
has occurred in printed Yellow Pages usage is the result of structural
changes in society and the economy, and the Internet has had relatively
little impact. For example, the growth of superstores has reduced
the need to look up toys, hardware stores, nurseries and lumber yards.
And the growth of physician networks has moved some usage to HMO and
supporting the optimistic outlook of print usage is the viewpoint
that life events (birth, marriage, home ownership, retirement) drive
usage. And as generations age, life events ranging from marriage to
childbirth to retirement come up that drive the need for heavy directory
usage. This cycle of life events will continue to fuel Yellow Pages
usage, and in all likelihood printed usage.
truth about usage is elusive. But as with most things, it resides
in the middle range of this spectrum. There is no disputing that print
usage frequency is down in the United States, although reach (the
number of people using Yellow Pages during the year) has remained
very stable over the years. There is also limited evidence that the
Internet has yet had a directly corrosive effect on print usage. However,
the growth in the capability and usage of search engines, and the
increasing bandwidth and portability of access devices inevitably
lead to questions about the future viability of print.
Kelsey Group (TKG) recently conducted an online survey in cooperation
with BizRate.com. It generated 5,582 responses from a pool of Internet
users defined as "online shoppers" for having used the Internet as
a tool for making or researching a purchase in the past year. Sixty-four
percent of these respondents indicated search engines were the "main
way" they found information on the Internet. Additionally, 80 percent
rated commercial search results as good or excellent, and 44 percent
indicated they are performing more online searches than a year ago.
The survey sampled attitudes of Internet users, which are only a subset
of the population that uses printed Yellow Pages. Nonetheless, the
research suggests a growing reliance on search engines in everyday
conducted a by-invitation, qualitative online survey among industry
thought leaders. We sought a range of data points on usage, from how
companies measure usage to how they perceive the impact the Internet
has or has not had on usage of their printed product.
Survey respondents generally told TKG that usage is under some pressure,
but the issue has not yet reached crisis proportions.
Kelsey Group also conducted a wide range of interviews for this White
Paper, and has found varying levels of concern over usage of the printed
Yellow Pages. There is a lot of room between panic and complacency.
What is clear is that consumers have more information choices, and
they are making greater use of these choices. Yellow Pages publishers
have a clear obligation to invest in their products in order to retain
their place in the pecking order of these information alternatives.
in developed markets in Europe and the Pacific Rim generally report
declines in core product usage. But these same publishers tend to
be more confident in their ability to capture the migration of usage
through their own non-print products. Smaller, independent publishers
in the United States generally expressed optimism over print usage,
a reflection of their position as new market entrants. Many larger
incumbent publishers concede that competition is having some impact,
but not a crippling effect on usage and revenues.
White Paper will attempt to compile the full range of viewpoints,
and supporting evidence, on what is the true future for printed directory
usage. TKG offers its own perspective as well, in the form of its
usage forecast. We will also attempt to be prescriptive and offer
our list of recommendations to publishers hoping to improve or stabilize
their core product usage, or successfully convey their value proposition
to consumers and advertisers.