Nearly two years ago, we began the process of reshaping how we collect Yellow Pages usage data. We wanted to create an index that measured Yellow Pages usage better than anything we had before, and to have the ability to compare that data with other sources of local information.
Today, I’m glad to say that hard work has paid off with the release of our first annual Local Media Tracking Study. Because this survey included 80% online interviews and 20% telephone interviews, I’m confident this reflects the population better than our previous survey, which was only conducted by telephone and focused solely on Yellow Pages usage.
Conducted by Burke, the study found that the Yellow Pages industry continues to have significant reach in local search, and that consumer trust in Yellow Pages remains strong. It also found that our reach and frequency grew between the first and second half of 2009, following the general economic trends we saw on a macro level.
Yellow Pages Products Capture Greatest Reach
In the survey, consumers were asked what sources they used in the last month to look up information to find a local business, or to look for a product or service in their local area.
In answer to that question, 65% said they used print and/or Internet Yellow Pages – more than any of the other sources. When analyzed individually, print Yellow Pages was 54% and Internet Yellow Pages was 33%.
Search engines scored 58%, followed by flyers/coupons, newspapers, and magazines. Because Yellow Pages companies have formed partnerships with search engines, it’s fair to say the Yellow Pages reach is quite high across a number of platforms.
Yellow Pages Continue to Maintain Consumer Trust
Trust has always been a big talking point for the Yellow Pages industry, and the data show why.
More than two-thirds of consumers (67%) said that print or Internet Yellow Pages are the source they trust most for finding local business information, compared to 33% for search engines.
When polled on accuracy of local business information, print and Internet Yellow Pages scored highest with 68%, compared to search engines with 32%.
Print and Internet Yellow Pages Generate 16.9 Billion References
In total, consumers referenced print and Internet Yellow Pages 16.9 billion times in 2009.
Separate research from comScore found that Internet Yellow Pages continued to chart growth, increasing from 4.6 billion searches in 2008 to 4.9 billion in 2009. Burke found that print Yellow Pages received 12 billion references in 2009.
The results also indicated growth in the reach (the number of U.S. adults who use Yellow Pages) and frequency (how often Yellow Pages are referenced per adult) in both print and Internet Yellow Pages between the first and second half of 2009:
- The percentage who said they used print Yellow Pages within the last month increased 12 percent, from 51.5% in the first quarter to 57.6% in the fourth quarter.
- Respondents also turned to print Yellow Pages more frequently as the year progressed. In the first quarter, there was an average of 0.93 references per U.S. adult per week. By the fourth quarter, that had grown 19 percent to 1.11 references per adult per week.
- Internet Yellow Pages saw an even sharper 20% growth in reach during the year, from 31.6 percent in the first quarter to 37.9% in the fourth quarter.
- The frequency of Internet Yellow Pages usage grew 24% from the first quarter (0.54 references per week per adult) to the fourth quarter (0.67 references per week per adult).
A Reflection on the Data
Overall, I’m pleased to see very solid performance by Yellow Pages. Of course, these results reflect the overall U.S. population, so there are differences between age groups and geographies. Not surprisingly, print Yellow Pages is less popular with the 18-24 crowd than other age categories, while print Yellow Pages reach is stronger with rural consumers than with urban and suburban. Internet Yellow Pages reach ranked highest with consumers under 55, and most popular with suburban users as compared to urban and rural.
I’ll blog more about these data points in the days and weeks ahead, but I believe they demonstrate a critical point: advertiser’s can benefit from the Yellow Pages industry’s new agency model – where depending on your business, target customer, and geographic location – you can work with your Yellow Pages rep to put together a program that will work best and focuses on the right kind of advertising. Whether that’s a display ad in the print directory, a video ad on an Internet Yellow Pages site, or a robust SEO/SEM program or sponsored YP listing in Bing – it’s up to you and your Yellow Pages rep to create a program that generates the sales the business needs to win.