White Pages and Yellow Pages Heading Into History

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The White Pages are fading while the Yellow Pages are fighting – but both are probably doomed.

Last month, we wrote about the White Pages Following Rotary Phones Into History, as more than a dozen states have granted Verizon Communications permission to stop distributing the ubiquitous residential phone book. Someone must’ve been reading, because a new poll was released last week that really puts the nail in the coffin.

The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research company asked a half-dozen phone book-related questions of 1,100 adults nationwide [PDF]. It found…

  • Only 31 percent of Americans use the White Pages as the “primary source to find a phone number,” while 45 percent use the Internet.
  • When you look at just 18- to 29-year-olds, that drops to a mere 20 percent. Which means eight in 10 young people have absolutely no need for the phone book.
  • In the week before the poll, only 3 percent said they used the White Pages at all – and only 1 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had. When you consider the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, it’s conceivable – although not likely but certainly fun to consider – that no young person polled used the White Pages that week.
  • When they get a new phone book, 24 percent of Americans immediately throw it away.

It’s that last little fact that upset the Seattle City Council earlier this year. In October, city leaders passed an ordinance that created an “Opt-Out System” so residents can stop receiving the Yellow Pages – which can sometimes arrive on their doorstep from multiple publishers per year.

“Based on information supplied by some of the yellow pages publishers, Seattle Public Utilities estimates nearly 2 million yellow pages phone books are dropped off in Seattle every year, costing approximately $350,000 to recycle,” the city declared in a press release.

The ordinance also requires Yellow Pages publishers to pay a “recovery fee” of 14 cents per book to help pay for that recycling. This being America, the entire thing will end up in court – the Yellow Pages sued the city last month.

If you don’t live in Seattle and want to stop getting the Yellow Pages, you can still opt out, but it ain’t easy…

  1. Go to YellowPagesOptOut.com.
  2. Type in your ZIP Code.
  3. That  takes you a list of all your Yellow Pages providers. (In my case, that were three different publishers, and only two offered web links.)
  4. In the case of AT&T, you get sent to a page that requires you to type in all your personal info – then asks if you want the Yellow Pages to “be shipped now.” The only way to opt out is to indicate “0” in the field asking how many books you’ll want next time.

Someday, this will make a sad, funny story for your kids.

Stacy Johnson

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