The annual Local Media Tracking Study has become a key study in understanding the trends of Yellow Pages product usage. Conducted by Burke Research, the study analyzes the usage of both print and Internet Yellow Pages products over the course of one year. Since its debut in 2010, the study has endeavored to track the changing dynamics of the Yellow Pages products in a vibrant media landscape.
2011 wasn’t such a rosy year for print Yellow Pages (PYP) in terms of usage. According to the study, total annual references across all print Yellow Pages heading dropped from 11 billion in 2010 to 7.4 billion in 2011—a decrease of 32.7 percent from the previous year. This marks the sharpest decline in PYP usage since 2002; in the previous decade the average annual decrease was approximately 4.3 percent.
2011 reinforced the notion that the world is migrating more and more to digital solutions for their local business needs. Whereas PYP suffered a sharp decline in annual references, Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) products experienced a strong increase in usage. In 2010 annual references across all headings and platforms was reported as 5.6 billion; in 2011, the usage figure was 6.3 billion—an overall increase of 12.5 percent.
Frequency of Use:
Frequency of use also experienced a slight drop from 2010 to 2011 as consumers find themselves faced with an ever-increasing selection of sources for local business information. In 2011, 40 percent of respondents reported using PYP once per month, down from 49 percent in 2010. Twenty-four percent responded that they used PYP at least once per week, as opposed to 33 percent the previous year.
For IYP, the numbers mimic the pattern set by PYP. While more references occurred in 2011 than 2010, the frequency of usage dipped slightly. Once per month usage dipped from 36 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2011; weekly usage declined from 21 percent to 17 percent.
One point of the study remains relatively consistent year-to-year and that is the intent to buy of both PYP and IYP users. Due to the nature of the media, those who reference the product show a strong tendency to not only make contact with the businesses they research, but also follow up those references with purchases.
As with the intent to purchase, the ability of the medium to bring in new customers to businesses has remained strong. From 2010 to 2011, the percentage of purchasers who used PYP and were new customers to the business they selected increased by 4 percent. For IYP, the increase from year to year was 6 percent. While this is not a statistical landslide it does show that the ability of the new platforms to bring in new business to an advertiser has remained consistent. Both PYP and IYP would appear to be a logical advertising platform for a business seeking to expand its customer base.
There are many reasons that can be given for the decline in usage figures presented in the 2012 Local Media Tracking Study. A stagnant economy, increased competition from online data source, and the ascension of mobile search all may have attributed to the lower usage numbers. Consumer preferences are also changing and a barrage of negative press toward the products may be hurting the brand identity of “Yellow Pages”. There is also the question of whether or not the study’s results include mobile IYP app usage. Regardless there are a few takeaways that can be gleaned from the report. First, the ability of both PYP and IYP to convert references into purchases has remained strong and statistically steady. Secondly, both PYP and IYP remain a viable means to attract new customers to an existing client base. While no longer the “only game in town”, the Yellow Pages products still present a viable and effective advertising medium for small/medium businesses seeking to connect with local customers.