Monthly Archives: July 2011

Lost in Seattle: Hello. Print Yellow Pages Aren’t Your Problem

The City of Seattle has just released their 2010 Recycling Rate Report.  In it, the city staff just gushes over their efforts to improve recycling rates:

“…Seattle’s goal to reach 60% recycling of municipal solid waste (MSW) by the year 2012, and 70% by 2025. In 2010, Seattle recycled 53.7% of its MSW, an increase of 2.6 percentage points over 2009. This is the largest increase in the recycling rate since 2006. The recycling rate has risen 15.5 percentage points since the 2003 low of 38.2%….”

Such a model city.  Kudos for increasing your recycling results.  But are things as peachy as they make it sound?  Not really.  When you dig a little deeper, you find that the city’s total municipal waste stream came to 335,570 tons.  As most you already know, Seattle has become the battleground for local governments overstepping their functions and legislating that phone books must be opt-out, making the publishers pay fees for distributing books within the city:

In 2010, the Seattle City Council passed legislation aimed at reducing the delivery of unwanted yellow pages phone books.  <<their evaluaiton, not the  industry’s>>  In May 2011, SPU launched an Internet database <<a duplicate of the industry association efforts already in place>>, which allows people to opt-out of receiving yellow pages and junk mail. The database works for residents living outside of Seattle as well. By the end of May 2011, nearly 30,000 households and businesses signed up and opted out of more than 185,400 yellow pages deliveries. This represents more than 150 tons of paper waste prevention.

Using the City of Seattle’s numbers, this illegal action which only
targets phone books, after all its promotion, after all of the complaints from
a small minority of residents, and despite the industry’s best efforts to
convince City legislators that this effort was a duplicate, job killing, small
business killer, has only managed  to save 150 tons out of a total waste stream of more than 335,00 tons. That comes to .0447%. All of this hoopla for less than a tenth of a percent.  That’s really sad and a true real waste of tax payer money.   Yet City leaders can’t see through their bubbles of recycling joy that  they should be more focused on the other 99.95% of their waste.  Phone books are NOT the problem people!!!

Fortunatley, the legal battle againist the City’s illegal ordinance is far from over.   The “” reports that the ball game is just getting started:

The 9th Circuit seems likely to stop enforcement of a new Seattle law that lets residents opt out of receiving phone books and requires yellow pages publishers to be licensed and pay 14 cents on every delivered book.

Last month, a federal judge granted partial summary judgment to the city, dismissing the publishers’ First Amendment and Commerce Clause claims. He separately refused their demand for an injunction.  Directories are commercial speech, and “common sense – the touchstone of the commercial speech doctrine – dictates that the yellow pages directories should not receive the highest level of protection afforded by the First Amendment,” U.S. District Judge James L. Robart wrote.

Dex Media West, SuperMedia and the Yellow Pages Association, which filed suit in November 2010, now want the 9th Circuit to grant an injunction pending appeal, saying the law violates their First Amendment rights.  The publishers presented their claims for emergency relief to the three-judge appellate panel on July 13.  The judges seemed sympathetic to the publishers’ request and saved most of their questions for the city of Seattle counsel Jessica Goldman.

Judge Edward Korman began by asking why the new rule doesn’t apply to all junk mail.  “There are many publications that are given out to which your ordinance doesn’t apply,” Korman said. “It only applies to the Yellow Pages. Why isn’t this a form of discrimination?

Judge Richard Clifton asked why “shopper”-type newspapers stuffed with ads are not addressed by the ordinance.  “It comes twice a week,” Clifton said. “It forms a stack a whole lot bigger than the phone book and the ordinance does nothing about that and the city is apparently not going to do anything about that.”

Goldman said she could not speak about what Seattle might do in the future, but this was a “first step.” She said that the city had a vested interest in preventing waste and protecting the privacy of residents, but the judges seemed skeptical about the privacy claim.

“When I find these books on my doorstep, I don’t think my privacy has been violated any more than when I find a food flyer from a local restaurant or takeout place,” Korman said. “I don’t understand that argument at all.”  Clifton said that he was also “mystified” by the privacy justification.

How does what Dex is doing – in attaching yellow pages to the directory – a further invasion of privacy?” he asked. “I see zero improvement of citizens’
privacy rights through this ordinance.”

Clifton called privacy a “red herring” and said he thought the
ordinance was strictly about waste.

News U Can Use — July

These news items are brought to you by Kuk & Baldwin:

SECURITY NEED INCREASES.     When the economy is down, burglary and
property crimes go up.   Indeed, all facets of the private security industry are doing well and running at a $160 billion-a-year clip – with alarm systems accounting for some $35 billion of that and growing by 7%-8% a year.
Regarding home alarm systems, the trend is to wireless, especially with many homes abandoning land phone lines.   Also, homes with a monitored system,
including wireless, are 3 times less likely to be broken into or robbed
than homes without one.   And while security firms still install most systems, more and more locksmiths are finding alarms to be a reliable new revenue stream (Locksmith Ledger, 6/11).

NEW BUSINESS MODEL?  Since the “Great Recession” began late in
2008, more people have become entrepreneurs than during the prior 15 years –
and the future will likely bring more of the same.   According to a 2009 report by MIT, freelance positions are expected to make up half of all new jobs during a recovery – in part because of online technology, and also the fact that many firms find they can operate efficiently by shrinking permanent staff and using
freelancers.   Many freelancers will look for work on freelance websites like Elance, but some may need good YP representation (Christian Science Monitor, 6/13/11).

REMODELING BITS.     A recent Scarborough Research survey found
that the most common home improvement projects undertaken by homeowners in the past year were landscaping, 29%; interior painting or wallpapering, 28%;
carpeting/floor covering, 14%; and bathroom remodeling, 13% (Research Alert,
6/3/11)…. Pennsylvania builders have beaten back a proposed law requiring
fire-sprinkler systems for all new construction (Journal of Light
, 6/11)….A bill has been introduced in the Senate to require
lenders to consider energy-saving factors when offering mortgages (Remodeling,

Find out how to be at the top of your sales performance by clicking on

Other recent media/advertising news:

Survey:  Advertisers & Marketers More Optimistic
An AdAge survey of 3,200 advertisers and marketers reveals the industry is feeling a bit more positive about things, with executives saying they’re more optimistic about boosting their ad budgets than at any other time in the past four years. Advertiser Perceptions carries out the survey every six months, and the latest result marks a turnaround from more cautious sentiment in the immediately previous sampling.  (Source)

Revised forecast calls for 20% growth for online ads
eMarketer has revised its online ad spending estimate for this year as results are more robust than previously projected.  Online is expected to now grow 20% to $31.3 billion The company earlier estimated a 10.5% increase to $28.5 billion.
Display ads, which are projected to rise 25% to $12.3 billion, are helping to
fuel the growth.  (Source)

TV ad spending is expected to hit $68 billion by 2015
A new forecast from eMarketer predicts that overall traditional media advertising will be basically flat for the next couple of years, TV ad
spending, which was $59 billion last year, is expected to climb to $64.5
billion in 2012 and on to $68 billion by 2015. (Source)

TV Part 2:  some additional good news for TV:  NBC’s Super Bowl ad sales are strong, despite the fact that we aren’t even sure there will be a pro football season, with nearly half the ad time already sold for the February, 2012 game. As was true with Fox last year, automakers are the ones “driving” the market. Exact prices are not being shared, but it appears NBC will be able to push increases beyond the typical increase of $150,000 from year to year which would easily topping last year’s going rate of $3 million for a 30-second spot.   Who says advertisers have no money to spend?? (Source)

TV Part 3:  Time Warner is increasing the number of TV channels and programs it pipes over the Internet to people with conventional pay-TV subscriptions, as the TV business faces growing competition from Web-video services.  (Source)

More e-mails are being delivered; fewer opened
Another new media advertising tool doesn’t seem to be working as
well.  According to Harte-Hanks, delivery rates for subscription-based e-mail sends rose slightly to 95% for 2010, but average open rates dropped from 26% to 17%.   Click thru rates stayed level at 3%. Harte-Hanks advises e-mail marketers to keep their lists “clean” by handling right away bounces and opt-out requests; targeting messages and running them at set intervals; and testing each message.  (Source)

More Newspaper Good News/Bad News

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today announced that its Q2 profits fell 22%.  The good news:  the profit drop was smaller than Wall Street was expecting and digital sales were “strong”.  As a result, the company had more than doubled its dividend.  (Source)

Three advertising elements that trump creativity
Don’t let the desire to be creative get in the way of communicating the three main elements of advertising, Ryan Caligiuri, a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist writes. No matter what, your advertisement should state the benefits of your product, give customers a reason to buy and include a simple, repeatable tagline (can you say RASCAL factors Yellow Pages people….).  (Source)

Are clicks overrated??

With the inception of the Internet, marketers have been all excited about the supposed benefits of online marketing with many considering it the most measureable form of advertising available (guess they never heard of old fashion call tracking). In theory, I understand why they would think that way as every keystroke can be recorded, analyzed, and “what-if”-ed to death.  But I’m still not sure why these marketers spend so much of their time focused on what would appear to be a relatively insignificant data point — the click

True, these marketing gurus can flip open Google Analytics (or other click-tracking software) to see exactly how many users interacted with an ad, and even get all excited about conversion rates, measuring not only how many people clicked on an ad, but also how many actually did something of value, like make an actual purchase after the click.  That kind of data is a lot more accurate than the traditional measurements of guessing how many eyeballs saw or did anything after seeing a 30-second spot on television.   The click has been THE measurement metric of the web for marketers.  At first glance, clicks seemed like a metric that made sense.  But now when you dig a little, you realize there’s a lot more to be looking for.  What happened??

The reality is 99.9+% of banner ads don’t ever get a click.  Think about it.  How often do you click on one of those ads?  And tell me what other media bases their success on a metric where the industry average response rate is 0.1 percent?  Even the best banner campaigns that I have heard of usually has a click-through rate of well under 10%. Ad networks are touting “success” at a 0.05 percent click-through rate. Isn’t that a pretty sad response level, even if the advertising is cheap compared to other media?   Or is it a case of you get what you pay for.

I’ve noted several other comments that online advertisers are too hung up on the rate of click-throughs.  According to an article this spring by Simon Owens , the Director of PR for JESS3 writing in the Nieman Journalism Lab,who noted that in reality, it is a hit-or-miss proposition at best (mostly miss) that  you’re going to capture a consumer just at the moment he’s interested in a particular product or service and get them to click on an ad. Other studies have suggested a better strategy may be to create a lasting impression (didn’t use to be called “brand marketing”) with an image — such as the well-known Geico Gecko.

Yet despite these super low results, Google, the king of search and internet advertising has seen it appropriate to institute an 18% rise in the cost per click from last quarter with only a corresponding 12% increase in clicks. And advertisers use to say print Yellow Pages were predatory for constantly raising ad rates as the perceived usage went down.

In the growing world of social advertising, the “cost per click” of an ad placed on the popular Facebook site has increased by 74% over the last year in four of the world’s largest media markets, according to TBG Digital, an independent marketing firm specializing in social media.  And for these growing advertising costs you get what?  According to a study by Webtrends this year, Facebook’s average click-through rate for an ad was 0.05 per cent in 2010.  Whoopi hoo..

It’s all about being “green”, especially when it’s for a profit

We’re all for entrepreneurial efforts here at YP Talk.  Heck, that’s how YP Talk got started.  But have you noticed how some new efforts have been started under the banner of supposedly being eco-friendly, environment saving efforts, all for the good of mankind and the planet, but then on a second look, are really just leveraging the “green” wave to make a “green” buck?

Case in point –Yellow Pages Directory, Inc. which owns the “Yellow Pages Goes Green” website on which it says it “…has been doing its part by providing consumers with an earth-friendly alternative to bulky, wasteful, landfill-clogging yellow pages books.”  The company has now taken another bold leap
forward for the environment to “…fulfilling its mission to eliminate the unsolicited delivery of yellow and white pages books” by acquiring the site.  So let me see if I have this right — they
want to rid the world of printed phonebooks so people will be forced to use
their online product.  Hmmm.  Sounds like a gallant environmental
effort.  Or is it?

For those not familiar with here is what we reported in
August of 2009
about this effort:

…in 2006 a new effort called the “Paperless Petition“, was started to supposedly provide consumers with an opt-out option for printed Yellow Pages products. Sounds like a very noble effort doesn’t it?

But here is the rub:

  •  I’ve tried several times to contact its creator and have yet to get a single response back.
  •  The comments on the site are more than a little dated (2006 dates on quotes)
  •  And here’s the best  — I have yet to find a single publisher or industry association that has ever received any communication from this group/site/person. No one. Nada.
    Zilch. Zero.

Yet despite these discrepancies, other bloggers/sites continue to suggest this site if you don’t want a print product delivered to your doorstep. So what has its owner been doing with all the information that people have provided when they sign up for
the petition

Well now know what they are doing with that data – the new owner, Yellow Pages Directory, has built an IYP site that has nearly 28 million
business listings (supposedly) and I’m not really sure what that has to do with being more eco-friendly.

But the hypocrisy doesn’t just stop there.  Now they have issued this press

“….joining forces with the Green Chamber of Commerce in spearheading a Call to Action to promote conservation and eliminate the unnecessary waste inherent in the production and distribution of printed yellow pages books. Yellow Pages Goes Green urges governmental leaders in villages, towns, counties and cities across the United States to join us in furthering the Green movement and preserving our environment by sponsoring local legislation requiring that publishers of printed yellow directories be subject to opt-in or, at the very least, opt-out requirements…”

I don’t know about you but I’m going to sleep much better tonight knowing we have another group out there crusading to rid the world of print yellow pages books which we recently reported are being used by 7 out of 10 adults each year.  To help preserve the world against the impact of print yellow pages, the supposed solution from Yellow Pages Directory, the Internet, is what’s actually killing the planet – link to the full article.

Maybe the “green” effort they are talking about is the green color of money….