Yesterday, Neg Norton wrote a post about why the Yellow Pages Association opposes legislation that puts the government in the middle of the small business advertising industry.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been talking to many small and independent publishers in California about this legislation. Some of them publish listings oriented to Spanish-speaking, LGBT, and other specialized communities. Others deliver directories that are very local in nature, which help consumers and small businesses in a very specific area connect with one another
What I keep hearing is that while there is a time and place for government regulation of certain industries, this is not one of them. The Yellow Pages industry has existed for more than 100 years and will continue to exist as long as small businesses see value from the advertisements they place and consumers believe that our directories are a useful source of local business information. California publishers feel their state government should not interfere with those natural market forces.
In California, the YPA and local publishers oppose Senate bill 920 introduced by state Sen. Leeland Yee of San Francisco. Here’s why we think the bill is bad for Californians:
- We already offer opt-out programs in California. Anyone who would like to reduce or stop directory delivery can visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com to start that process. The state’s government does not need to spend its very limited resources on creating new programs when they already exist.
- Regulation puts our industry – and our advertisers – at a disadvantage. We are part of the larger advertising industry that caters to small businesses, which includes radio, newspapers, and the Internet. It is anticompetitive and unfair to legislate one form of advertising but not others.
- The proposed legislation includes very specific language that regulates how information is displayed on our very own products. Directory publishers have made phenomenal progress over the last year in making opt-out information more prominent and easily accessible in the directory and on covers. But the directory cover remains a coveted place for advertisers and community groups, and the state government should not diminish the opportunities for them to secure space there.
- Once someone opts out, how long should that address be on our do-not-deliver lists? This bill says forever, and we disagree with that. Given the turnover in real estate, we think it’s appropriate for a publisher to have an opportunity to re-deliver to an address after a certain number of years. The opportunity for new residents to opt-out will always be available.
- Sen. Yee represents urban San Francisco with a young, digitally-savvy population that may feel print directories are no longer useful. But as research continues to show, this is an oversimplification of today’s fragmented media market. Usage of print directories across many demographics is quite high, but especially among rural and suburban dwellers, older consumers (who have high disposable income), and for life events and certain emergency situations.
- Yellow Pages publishers employ thousands of Californians and contribute significant taxes to the state budget. Any legislation that puts that in jeopardy through unnecessary and anticompetitive regulation is bad for California.
The bill’s intentions may be good. We understand the natural inclination to look for ways to help consumers and protect the environment. That’s why our industry has done so much on these fronts already – the progress is real and tangible. But this bill presents risks and costs to the state, to small businesses, and to long-time California employers that we simply cannot afford.