Is anyone using phone books anymore, for you know…looking up phone numbers? Anyone?

I live in an apartment building. Every time the phone companies deliver their books, they dump them in the foyer where they sit for weeks until the building manager finally puts them all in the recycling bin.

At least our books make it inside, out of the Seattle rain. I’ve seen piles of them in front of other countless apartment complexes in my neighborhood, deteriorating outside front doors until they are almost unrecognizable, like a Jack-o-lantern in December.

Even the grocery store has a supply, usually Yellowbook, gathering dust near the checkout. I have never seen anyone take one. In fact, when it comes to phone books, I’ve heard more people complain about them then tout their usefulness.

Maybe they appeal to a certain segment of the population; perhaps those who are resistant to using technology. When I did a Google search for “phone book advertising seattle,” I found a quote from Bill Gates from May 2007 about the future of printed Yellow Pages listings: “These things always take time, but Yellow Page usage among people, say, below 50, will drop to zero – near zero – over the next five years.”

In the comments section, an anonymous person who admittedly works for a yellow page publisher retorts: “The last time you wanted a pizza or a needed a plumber in a hurry, did you actually turn to the internet or did you grab a phone book? Did you specifically know where you wanted the pizza from or what type of plumber you were looking for? Then why go to the internet when you can look it up much quicker in a phone book. 67% of those who look for products and services online, end up buying locally. They refer back to the yellow pages.”

I don’t know about you, but this is how I find pizza in a hurry if I don’t already have a place in mind. I get on the internet and search for “best pizza in Seattle”, which usually brings up Yelp. Then I look for the place closest to me with the best results. If I end up liking the pizza well enough, I’ll program their phone number in my cell for fast delivery next time around.

The reason I bring this up is that as a marketer, I am approached to advertise in about half a dozen different phone directories, each one claiming it has the most readership. But, I don’t actually know anyone using the phone book in 2009.

Do you use the phone book? If so, which one and what do you use it for?


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5 Responses

  1. Dustin DeKoekkoek says:

    I haven’t used a phonebook in 4 years and that was only because I was at a B&B w/out internet access and didn’t have an iPhone yet. I can’t even remember using one before that, ever really.

  2. NWGACU says:

    Agreed! I can’t think of the last time I looked something up in a phonebook. If I did need one, it had to be because I couldn’t find a computer or an internet connection. It’s faster to google something than flip pages in a phonebook, and we are all about faster.

  3. Jason says:

    About the only thing we still use the phonebook for is the pizza or restaurant listings, but only the places who shell out the extra money to list their menus or a full page ad so you can see precisely what they offer—even this use will be obsolete once more restaurants put their menus online.

    Nothing beats the GPS assisted search on a mobile device with links to reviews, etc.

    What makes the phone book that much more annoying is that there are so MANY of them delivered to your door nowdays, rather than just one back in the ‘good old’ times.

  4. shari storm says:

    I use phone books all the time.

    My youngest daughter can’t reach the table unless she sits on one.

    And sometimes I use one to prop open our back door when the dog needs let back in.

    Of course, they are all from 1998….

  5. Ward says:

    Great post.My newly delivered phone book is still sitting on my door step after having been delivered over a week ago because I cant bear to throw the thing into the recycling bin without having even opened it. It just feels so wasteful. But, inevitably, that’s what I’ll do, just like last year and the year before. Maybe I’ll print out this blog post and mail it back to the publisher along with the phone book in the hopes that they print a few less next year. Bill Gates was right about users under 50. I’m 35.

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