What The Yellow Pages Can Tell You About The Economy

“The new phone books are here, the new phone books are here!”That was a line from Steve Martin in the movie The Jerk, heDex YP was finally “somebody” because his name was in the phonebook. Well, today I received the latest edition of the Dex yellow pages directory for Las Vegas. Without even opening it, I saw a snapshot of the local economy.
 Las Vegas was a city that was growing so fast that the yellow pages were published twice a year, January and July, the only market in the country to do so. There were so many new businesses opening up that the publisher, R.H. Donnelley, felt that they couldn’t make someone wait as long as twelve months to advertise. With each edition the book was bigger and heavier as more and more businesses advertised.

 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.

Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need. – Will Rogers

About Author


  1. It should also be noted, as a sign of the times, that due to the pressures described in the article and others such as the move to the Web, both RH Donelly and Idearc have filed for bankruptcy in the past few months. They have been two of the largest publishers of Yellow Pages in the country.

  2. Pingback: ShortWoman» Blog Archive » “Bipartisan Compromise” = “Everyone’s Screwed”

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here