Updated Industry Opt-out Site Rolled Out

As they have been promising for months now, the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) and the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) today launched an upgraded website at www.yellowpagesoptout.com that allows consumers nationwide to easily manage the delivery of their phone directories (Official press release).  Consumers can now go to a single location to select which phone directories they receive, or to stop directory delivery altogether.

I ran a search for the area where we use to live in North Carolina and the system smartly displayed all of the books we use to get in the area:

When the original site was launched in 2009, the site only provided information on individual publishers that consumers needed to contact individually.  The upgraded and redesigned interface increases consumer convenience and reduces confusion about the options available to manage phone book delivery by eliminating the need to contact multiple publishers.

In the press release Neg Norton, president of YPA notes that “…our industry is taking a giant leap forward today by launching a clearinghouse site for consumers to control the delivery of directories.  The site, supported by directory publishers across the country, illustrates our ongoing commitment to not delivering a directory to someone who doesn’t want one.”

Larry Angove, president and CEO, Association of Directory Publishers added that “…we continue to believe, and research supports, that directories remain an important tool for consumers searching for local information.  That said, we believe it is equally important to provide a simple solution for consumers who only want a certain directory or feel they can do without a directory.”

Those who have been fighting the distribution of these directories have ignored publishers ongoing position that if someone didn’t want a phonebook, they shouldn’t have to get one.  The associations should be congratulated on this unique collaboration effort among large and small publishers across the country that shows a commitment to our promise to reducing unwanted directories.  158 publishers are currently in the site database.

“Consumers continue turning to print Yellow Pages, both to help find local businesses, driving valuable new leads for our advertisers, and also to quickly access community and government information,” said Norton. “We believe print remains a central component of our industry’s growing portfolio, which today includes digital and mobile platforms. We’re constantly working to transform and innovate so that we can continue supporting local businesses and consumers in the most environmentally friendly way.”

Growing call tracking levels support industry research showing that over 75% of U.S. adults use print Yellow Pages to find local businesses each and every year.  Hence, advertisers are still realizing a return on the investment for local directory advertising of at least $14 for every $1 spent.

Without a doubt this updated effort improves the opt-out process drastically. But ultimately some critics will still not be happy. For example, look at this lead paragraph from the San Francisco Examiner:

In a tech-savvy and environmentally aware region like the Bay Area, which is home to online directories such as Yelp and Google Local, the arrival of a new Yellow Pages book can seem like a blast from the past.

Didn’t realize that class warfare was now linked to the distribution of yellow page directories, but hey, we are talking about San Francisco.  It’s just a shame the industry would have to lower any of its standards to appease such a small bunch of snobs. But the Examiner article did at least correctly contain this item:

And yet, for all of the griping by  people who wish they could opt out of receiving a phone book, thousands of small businesses in San Francisco continue to depend on their Yellow Pages advertising, Amy Healy said. <YPA Staff>

“It’s not sexy,” she said. “But it works for them.”

Has, still is, and will continue to be the best advertising media for most small – midsized businesses.  No one will disagree that consumers today find information in all sorts of ways and usually many check multiple sources when searching for information about products or services.  But we also know that consumers are still turning to those print Yellow Pages, and will continue to for years to come.

And of course the city of Seattle still doesn’t get it.  Despite facing a lawsuit from the industry, the Seattle City Council on Monday voted to stick with a 14-cent fee it plans to charge Yellow Pages distributors for every book that goes to Seattle residents.  I guess the industry should be somewhat pleased that the city backed away from a $148 tonnage fee it approved in October to help pay the cost of recycling the advertising books.  But despite today’s op-out site launch announcement, the Council still hasn’t dropped its October action to create a registry for people who want to opt out of receiving Yellow Pages-type phone books.

It will be interesting to see how many people actually ask to opt-out of their directory deliveries.  After most publishers initiated their own opt-out programs, YPA started their initial site, and numerous paper atheists began blogging campaigns to get people to opt-out, publishers have reported a significant drop off in the numbers of people requesting opt-out over the past months to almost a trickle.  Those publishers that have discussed opt-out levels have consistently indicated that less than 5% do.

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