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It wasn’t all that long ago that most Americans’ fingers took at least one weekly “walk” through the Yellow Pages (YP), those massive directories plunked on our doorsteps at the same time every year by the local phone company. Although many of us still receive printed books, they’re mere shadows of their former selves as the search function has gone digital in a big way – and many are merely tossed into landfills, recycled, or stuck in the back of a drawer somewhere.

That’s not to say that the former YP publishers have rolled over and gone away. They all boast some online presence and are now competing with online search companies for the dollars they previously enjoyed as a virtual monopoly in most markets.

In 2013, the combined print and online Yellow Pages captured 5% of the total $133.2 billion spent on U.S. local media. (Source: BIA Kelsey, 2014) Revenue for other local search sources, such as search engines, online social networks, etc. is not broken out from the totals for digital revenue, so it’s difficult to get a total picture on how much advertisers are spending in this category at this time.

  • The latest statistics available on print and digital search come from a Burke study conducted for the Local Search Association in late 2013, released in March 2014.  According to this research:
    • 80% of adult Americans have ever used the Paper Yellow Pages (PYP) and 57% have ever used Internet Yellow Pages (IYP)
    • Paper Yellow Pages Use
      • 53% of adults referred to the PYP at least once during the year
      • 29% referred to the PYP in any average month
      • 18% referred to the PYP in any average week
      • 8% referred to the PYP in any average day
    • PYP use is about equal between man and women, but strongest among older demographics
    • Weekly reach by gender
      • 19% of males
      • 17% of females
    • Weekly reach by age
      • 14% of 18-24
      • 12% of 25-34
      • 17% of 35-44
      • 18% of 45-54
      • 23% of 55-64
      • 23% of 65+
    • There were 4.7 billion references to the Paper Yellow Pages by U.S. adults in 2013
    • 75% of adults who looked at PYP referenced one or more display ads; the average number of ads reviewed was 3.9
      • 32% looked at 1 ad
      • 20% looked at 2 ads
      • 17% looked at 3 ads
      • 18% looked at 4-5 ads
      • 13% looked at 6+ ads
    • Approximately (49%) of adults who refer to the PYP already have one name in mind at the time of reference, meaning over half (51%) have a decision to make at the time they search
      • 17% have 2 or more names in mind
      • 34% have no name in mind
    • 63% of PYP users made a contact, visit, or purchase after a search, contacting an average of 1.7 places
      • 38% made a purchase
      • 76% made a purchase or were likely to do so
      • 35% among those making a purchase were new customers
  • Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) Use
    • 43% of adults referred to the IYP at least once during the year
    • 22% referred to the IYP in any average month
    • 13% referred to the IYP in any average week
    • 7% referred to the IYP in any average day
    • IYP use is about equal between man and women, but strongest among younger demographics
      • Weekly reach by gender
        • 14% of males
        • 12% of females
      • Weekly reach by age
        • 17% of 18-24
        • 16% of 25-34
        • 16% of 35-44
        • 13% of 45-54
        • 10% of 55-64
        • 6% of 65+
      • There were 4.6 billion references to the Internet Yellow Pages by U.S. adults in 2013
      • Fewer adults who reference the IYP already have one name in mind at the time of reference(39%) than print users’ 49% meaning close to 2/3 (60%) have a decision to make at the time they search
        • 19% have 2 or more names in mind
        • 41% have no name in mind
        • 72% of IYP users made a contact and 62% made a purchase on the same day as their search
        • 45% among those making a purchase were new customers

    (Source: Burke study for Local Search Association – 2013, published 3/14)

    • While the Yellow Pages directories were at one time a regular source for consumers seeking information on businesses and local services, the digitally connected world in 2015 has hugely expanded choices for accessing information and has taken search to mobile consumer. Consumers in cars and on the street can quickly access information through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing -- and those are just starting points. Search ads allow small local businesses to pinpoint precise locations for their ad placements, as precisely as zip code locations. Some businesses now see 60% to 80% of their web traffic originating from search engines.

    (Source: Raincross, 2014)

    • A 2014 study of consumers’ use of various sources for local search found that Google captures the majority, by a wide margin:
      • Which of the following online sites have you used regularly to find local businesses?
        • Google – 60.9%
        • None of the above – 24.8%
        • Yahoo or Bing – 14.9%
        • Yellow Pages – 13.8%
        • Yelp – 11.4%
        • Angie’s List – 4.1%
      • This survey didn’t cover 18-24s, but not surprisingly, age impacted choice of Google and Yelp, while the Internet Yellow skewed strongly 55+
      • Those that didn’t state a preference (none of the above respondents) also skewed older, indicating an opportunity for the IYP to expand its core

    (Source: Blumenthals.com, 2014)

    • Consumers place search engines at the top for local search activities compared to other sources:
      • Is the source I trust the most for finding local business information
        • Search Engines – 48%
        • Paper Yellow Pages – 26%
        • Internet Yellow Pages – 8%
        • Internet Social Networks – 4%
        • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 3%
        • Daily Deals Sites – 2%
      • Is the most accurate source for finding local business information
        • Search Engines – 47%
        • Paper Yellow Pages – 26%
        • Internet Yellow Pages – 10%
        • Internet Social Networks – 3%
        • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 3%
        • Daily Deals Sites – 2%
      • Is the source I turn to when ready to make a purchase
        • Search Engines – 52%
        • Paper Yellow Pages – 19%
        • Internet Yellow Pages – 6%
        • Ratings/Reviews Sites – 5%
        • Daily Deals Sites – 4%
        • Internet Social Networks – 3%

      (Source: Burke study for Local Search Association – 2013, published 3/14)