Leaner, But Not Meaner
When the directory came I did what I always do, I retrieved the old book to put it in the recycling. When I put the old edition down next to the new one I was shocked. While I would expect the book to be a little thinner, this one looked like it had undergone gastric-bypass surgery. There were 170 fewer pages of advertising. As I thumbed through the advertising I also saw significantly more filler pages, or pages without paid advertising.
To be sure, there is more competition for the advertising dollar from a multitude of outlets. However, the yellow pages are essential for certain businesses. Regardless of the other things that they do, they will always be in the directory. A great many people will turn to the yellow pages for emergency needs, such as heat, a/c or plumbing repair, rather than look through newspapers, magazines or the internet. Many of these businesses will cut everything else before they cut their yellow pages budget.
A Sign of The Times
The yellow pages serve as a mirror of the local economy. Many businesses are closing, no need for them to advertise. The are few new businesses opening up, no advertisers there either. Drive down any main thoroughfare and you will scores of empty stores and offices and plenty of “for rent” signs. Those businesses that haven’t closed are often forced to cut back. While logic would say that they should advertise more to attract new business, many business owners see the dollars going out as an expense rather than an investment and pare the advertising budget.
The phone books are a lagging indicator of the economy in that advertising decisions are made well in advance of the publication date. However, it can still be a useful tool. How has your local directory changed? I’m sure it’s much smaller as well. When it begins to grow again that could be a sign that things are improving. If a business owner is more optimistic about his own future he will be more likely to invest in advertising.
Something as simple as watching the size of the yellow pages may tell you that it’s time to pick up the pace of your investing.