Tag Archives: Yellow Pages Association

Local Search Association Responds to Seattle Ordnance

If this post had a subtitle it would read:  “While Seattle City Council Wastes Taxpayer Money, Local Search Association Sets the Record Straight

The local media in Seattle, lead by the Seattle Times have announced the start of a new print phone directory opt-out ordnance and further reported grossly inaccurate facts (hello Times — Dex, Yellowbook and Superpages are NOT owned by the Association, they are members).  Fortunately, the Local Search Association (formerly Yellow Page Association) has released the following statement to set the record straight:

Duplication and waste, inefficiency, lack of privacy guarantees and an array of other concerns characterize Seattle’s Yellow Pages opt-out website according to the Local Search Association, which manages a nationwide, industry-sponsored telephone directory opt-out program already available to Seattle residents through the www.yellowpagesoptout.com program.

 “Seattle residents who believe that the city’s site will protect their privacy when removing themselves from yellow page delivery lists will be sadly mistaken,” said Neg Norton, president, Local Search Association. “We believe that the city’s redundant site is not necessary and is unfairly leading residents to believe it has spent the government’s time and the taxpayer’s money on something new, when this option has been available to residents all along via www.yellowpagesoptout.com.”

The official site, http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com, offers consumers a number of advantages including privacy protections that Seattle’s site does not provide, an easy to use interface, and the ability to stop delivery of both Yellow Pages and white pages phone books.

Comments on various blogs from supposed local residents have criticized the Association opt-out site because it asks for a phone number so publishers can verify future opt-out requests.  The comments show a puzzling trend from a select group of people who believe the publishers/Association are going to share that information with telemarketers.  Such comments are ridiculous as the industry already works with millions of telephone numbers each day with no privacy issues.  And why would it further irate a small group of people who choose not to receive their print products?  However, one cannot make the same claim about the city of Seattle.  Since they are obviously in a revenue grab by taxing publishers, the next logical step in their efforts to balance their budget would be to market the data they collect.

The press release from LSA goes on to question the overblown calculations of the ordinances chief cheerleader:

Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Seattle Public Utilities have also released statistics that greatly exaggerate the environmental impact of print directories, falsely implying that phone books create 100 pounds of unwanted paper each year per household. According to the city’s own estimates, the city annually recycles approximately 1,500 tons of phone books or less than 2 percent of total recyclables – not 17,500 tons as claimed.

“We are deeply concerned with the way the City of Seattle has exaggerated in its media effort the number of directories distributed within the city limits, suggesting a per/household pound estimate that is 1,200 percent above what their own research shows,” Norton said.

Gee, a government group using inflated numbers to further their cause.  Have we heard this before somewhere?  LSA continues in the release to explain why this new government site makes little sense:

Directory publishers remain committed to offering Seattle residents and consumers nationwide the ability to choose which directories they receive at www.yellowpagesoptout.com . Through proactive industry efforts, the amount of directory paper in the market has declined by nearly 35 percent since 2007.

Even as the City of Seattle has worked to reduce its environmental footprint, it has selected a model that only encourages waste by duplicating work that the industry has already done. The sustainable approach is a national one, where there is one standard website for consumers across the United States to stop delivery of directories. The benefits of the industry’s site include:

  • No burden to cities, taxpayers, or city government staff: Industry assumes all costs and staffing associated with development, maintenance and promotion of http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com .
  • Greater awareness: One official industry site will result in greater awareness for consumers across the country, amplifying the positive impact of the initiative.
  • Integration with publishers’ technology systems: The website will work seamlessly with the publishers’ systems; no third-party vendor has the same level of existing knowledge.
  • Library of directory covers provide better clarity of choice for the user: The website will include visuals that will make it easier for residents to identify the directories they wish to keep or stop.
  • Protected personal information: Residents using www.yellowpagesoptout.com can be confident that their personal information will only be shared with publishers for the purpose of customizing their directory delivery choices and not sold to third parties or used by city governments or their website vendors for marketing purposes. The city has made no such assurances for its opt-out program or website.

Wake up Seattle.  Your self-serving Council is spending your money on an ego ride it doesn’t have to be on.  You can do better, much better….

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.

Environmental: Seattle Saga Continues – See You in Court

As we fully expected and noted in our recent blog, the City of Seattle’s new phone book ordinance which would implement new taxes and additional opt-out requirements on printed directories, has been challenged in a suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Dex One, SuperMedia, and the Yellow Pages Association (YPA).

The complaint, filed by Seattle-based Perkins Coie, LLP, asserts that the ordinance, passed last month:

  • violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing.
  • unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and
  • violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents.

In a press release from YPA, President Neg Norton noted that:

“We agree that residents should have a choice of whether they receive a Yellow Pages directory, but the Seattle City Council has passed a law that violates the most basic freedom in the United States.  Even as we oppose the ordinance in court, we are moving forward with plans to provide a first-class, national consumer choice website at www.yellowpagesoptout.com. This website will easily enable consumers to opt-out of unwanted phonebooks and will add no costs to taxpayers anywhere – in Seattle or across the country.”

The Seattle ordinance clearly singles out the Yellow Pages industry with regulations and fees that are not imposed on other media (or any other waste stream component) including discriminatory license fees for the right to publish and unprecedented “advance recovery fees” that previously have been limited to toxic or hard-to-recycle materials. The ordinance imposes obligatory cover language dictated by the city government and also mandates that publishers turn over confidential/private information from consumers to the City of Seattle.

Legislators seemed uninterested that the industry’s consumer choice site, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, will accomplish on a nationwide basis what Seattle now is trying to build on its own, with zero investment from the city and without the free speech concerns that the law currently presents.

“Considering the value to businesses and consumers that directories bring, and the admission by the ordinance’s lead sponsor that Yellow Pages are a ‘drop in the bucket’ of the city’s collection process, one has to wonder if the city’s intention is to impose similar free speech restrictions on other media in the future,” said Larry Angove, president of the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP), in support of the industry’s effort.

ADP joined YPA in commenting in the release noting several ways they believe the industry’s cohesive, national approach to consumer choice is better for cities in a number of ways:

  • No burden to cities, taxpayers, or city government staff: Industry assumes all costs and staffing associated with development, maintenance and promotion of www.yellowpagesoptout.com.
  • Greater awareness: One official industry site can be promoted which will result in greater awareness for consumers across the country.
  • Integration with publishers’ technology systems: The website will work seamlessly with the publishers’ systems to ensure requests are properly recorded.  This would be a nearly impossible task for any third-party who has no knowledge or understanding of the industry
  • Library of directory covers provide better clarity of choice for the user: The website will include visuals that will make it easier for residents to identify the directories they wish to keep or stop.
  • Protected personal information: Residents using http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com can be confident that their personal information will only be shared with publishers and not sold/used by any third parties for any reason.

While they haven’t made a big deal out of it before, industry publishers have made significant investments in sustainable practices since launching an updated industry wide Environmental Guidelines in 2007. Among the successes are:

  • Use of paper that contains recycled content and fiber derived from lumber byproducts (woodchips) – making it unnecessary to use new trees to produce Yellow Pages.
  • A 29% reduction in the use of directory paper since 2006, as a result of advanced pagination systems and programs to reduce the number and size of directories.
  • n  Use of soy-based inks and non-toxic dyes that pose little threat to soil or groundwater supplies and adhesives in the binding process that are eco-friendly and non-toxic.
  • Launch of the consumer choice programs (www.yellowpagesoptout.com) to give consumers a choice to reduce or stop directory delivery.

As we noted in the first blog, this really isn’t an environmental move by the City of Seattle.  Instead, it has become a clear attempt at cost shift and a political stepping stone for some Council members.

And now, it’s going to cost local residents to defend the frivolous actions of the Council.