Phone books gone bust

I will mention none of the too many phone books by name – because I know what a sore subject this is having a couple of friends who toil long and hard selling very expensive space in the things. Edsall

While I’m sure the books can produce a pile of research that will show us what a vital part of the consumer experience they remain, I think we all know that most people under 50 haven’t picked up a phone book in five years unless it was to get it off the driveway.

That’s why the City of Seattle is treating them like the litter-like nuisance they are. The city wants to require an opt-out list and add what amounts to a tax to fund the list and cleanup. I think we’ll see a LOT of others follow suit on environmental and quality of life grounds.

You know that if the politicians have found an entire business or industry to put into the public stocks, chances are it’s unpopular – and I have to say I would be dumbfounded if the public rose up to demand a lighter hand on their beloved phone books.

The fact is they are no longer beloved, but they remain expensive, bloated, space hogs and worst of all – buried in the back of some cupboard… unused.

While I think the printed books are dinosaurs, they are still strong brands and have done an admirable job migrating their marketing programs to the web – including solid new services like SEO, link exchanges and some other value added consulting services.

So why do the book companies keep burying us with all that paper? Because as long as companies are willing to spend more marketing dollars on ads than they cost to print – throwing the damned thing on your driveway counts as “distribution.”

If you’re a business owner – if you’re not tracking leads – you’re paying a lot of money for something of questionable value.

In the end, until the cost of sales/printing/distribution exceeds revenues, we’ll keep getting buried in yellow paper – whether we use the damned things or not.