This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.
The yellow pages used to be a huge business for the phone companies. If you owned a business, you had to be in it. The phone companies knew it, and did their best to squeeze every last penny out of business owners to get them to invest their money in the yellow pages.
The creators and marketers of the yellow pages boast that their publication is still relevant. The Yellow Pages Association suggests that 49% of American adults refer to the yellow pages every week. I'm not convinced that this is true.
And neither is The Kelsey Group, an advertising research firm in New Jersey. They say that in recent years, the use of printed newspapers and yellow pages has been falling at a rate of 2% to 3% per year. But in 2008, the drop in usage may be closer to 10%.
Businesses are sure to react to that drop in usage by holding back advertising dollars, which might even accelerate the decline of the yellow pages more. Fewer advertisers means the publication is less useful, which means there are fewer readers, which results in even fewer advertisers, ending up in a death spiral.
I don't even keep a phone book at my home or office. There's no need to, thanks to the internet. Yellow pages producers figured that out at some point, and started making yellow pages directories available on the web. They're really not needed though, as you can easily find a business with a simple search engine.