Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Will the Age of the Consumer Come to Yellow Pages?

Excerpted from a Kelsey Group Blog by Michael Taylor November 27, 2007

Empowering consumers to directly ask companies for what they want and to vocalize when they see something they do not agree with has certainly become the “norm” today. Bloggers have become citizen journalists, Web sites are “community owned” and supported, and brands are allowing consumers to direct new TV ads – all indications that major companies have understood the change in the marketing rules. Time Magazine in fact named “you” as the person of the year.

According to the Time article: “It’s about the many wresting power from the few … and how that will not only change the world, but change the way the world changes. In other words, ‘you’ have the power, and brands and its institutions must get ready for the changes that ‘you’ will demand.”

The Yellow Page brand continues to remain closed to consumers, and consumers are showing their displeasure by refusing to accept or keep the print book and opting for local search options on the major search engines rather than going to publisher sites.

The Yellow Pages industry has yet to fully embrace and understand that its advertiser base and content is currently less of a strategic advantage in the age of the consumer.

Consumers are in charge and they are vocal about what they want and who they support. Yellow Pages as a group has done a mediocre job of telling consumers why the print and online directories are relevant products in their lives, how they are changing to meet new demands, and how consumers can continue to benefit from the most comprehensive database of local businesses available.

In this age of “empowered consumers,” what can publishers do to understand what consumers want and how they want to interact with the massive local database Yellow Pages offers? Does the industry really have a grasp on how the way people search for local information has changed and how can this understanding change the way the print product is formatted and produced?

The goal should be to listen and learn from consumers about what makes for a great local search experience, then delivering it in real, differentiated, meaningful features and benefits.

The empowered consumer shift is well under way and now is the time for the Yellow Pages industry to use its considerable local advantage while it can to swing the pendulum back toward viewing the directory product line as the most comprehensive source of local business information whenever and wherever people need it.

My Take

It ain't never gonna happen.

The Yellow Pages will not change - at least not until they are forced to. Nor can they - their functionally obsolete printed medium is so far out of the consciousness of 20-something's making their first major purchases - homes, appliances - that it would require past life regression therapy to resurrect.

The yellow tome will soon be amusing history. "Hey kids, when I was young the coal man delivered house-to-house in a horse-drawn wagon" will become "Hey kids, when I was young they dropped big yellow phone directories on my driveway that we used to use to find phone numbers. Isn't that unbelievable?"