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Articles from MARKETING (105 Articles)

A group of Montreal protestors stand up against the Yellow Pages, calling it 'waste'.
A group of Montreal protestors stand up against the Yellow Pages, calling it 'waste'.

Yellow Pages is STILL useless

If the Yellow Pages is fading, COLEBY NICHOLSON asks if it’s time for jewellers to rethink their advertising and marketing. 

Over the weekend, you might have read reports the Yellow Pages looks likely to suffer the largest revenue dive in its 80-year history.

It’s no secret that the printed telephone directory business has been in decline the world over for many years. Most commonly, its sagging fortunes are attributed to the rise of digital media and especially search engines – primarily Google.

Publisher Sensis - a division of Telstra – sees the writing on the wall. Chief executive David Thodey said the revenue slump was caused by slower than expected sales of digital products and an accelerated decline in Telstra's terminal Yellow Pages business.

In announcing the 18 per cent flag in the Yellow Pages fortunes, The Age observed that the emphasis on digital is accelerating the decline of print directories: “It has long been just a matter of time before Telstra's traditional White and Yellow Pages directories felt the full onslaught of the internet,” the newspaper noted. “And now it's happened.”

But while the continuing decline has largely been blamed on changing consumer habits, I believe there’s a little more to it than that. The fading of Yellow Pages can also be blamed on its management and, more specifically, how inaccurate and out-of-date its information is.

Almost exactly 12 months ago I wrote “The Yellow Pages is useless,” an article in which I outlined how a search of yellowpages.com.au displayed 60 Kleins jewellery stores in Australia. Great result, barring the fact that Kleins had been liquidated nearly three years earlier.

Kleins closure in early 2008 was widely reported in the press, as was only right given the fact the company closed 180 stores and went down owing $25 million. But for as long as three years later, Sensis seemed to have missed that ‘memo’.

After my story went to print in December 2010, a Sensis corporate affairs manager wrote, assuring me the company was “dedicating significant resources to improve our systems, processes and infrastructure, so that the anomalies like the one that you encountered do not happen again”.

Personally, I wouldn’t have thought it was too difficult a problem to deal with; if a store’s telephone number has been disconnected for three years, it’s safe to assume it is no longer in business!

But, despite the promises of significant resources, processes and infrastructure, the 2011 printed Yellow Pages still lists the Kleins stores, with every phone number disconnected or allocated to other people.

As if the complete failure of the Yellow Pages to provide timely, reliable and accurate telephone numbers wasn’t bad enough (particularly given the fact that’s the sole purpose of the directory), my story detailed a number of other serious problems.

Consider this: last year I entered the search term “Wallace Bishop Jewellers in South Australia” into Yellow Pages directory. It gave me 56 results, and the same search for Western Australia received 39 results – 95 stores in total.

The problem was that Wallace Bishop had just 57 stores in December 2010, 43 of them were in Queensland and none of them were in either South Australia or Western Australia!

If Wallace Bishop had 43 stores in Queensland, how many did Yellow Pages think there were in the Sunshine State in 2010? Try 23!

Confused? I was!

The Sensis corporate affairs manager also explained, “A lot of time and effort is currently being dedicated to improving the usability of the Yellow Pages network. In the future, I hope that you will take the time to once again explore our network so that you share a more positive view of the Yellow Pages.”

While the Kleins’ matter has been addressed (online, at least), I repeated the Wallace Bishop searches today. Yellowpages.com.au delivered 41 results for Wallace Bishop jewellers in Western Australia, and 49 results for Wallace Bishop jewellers in South Australia.

Wallace Bishop still has no stores in WA but according to Sensis, the company has opened two new stores since December 2010. Mind you, the SA result shows a decline so it looks like Wallace Bishop has closed seven stores it never had!

Keep searching and things don’t get much better.

What if, for example, you live in Richmond, Victoria and you’re looking for a watchmaker? Well, you’re in luck, there’s one in Swan Street. But call the number and it’s disconnected. That’s probably because the store closed nearly two years ago. But there it is, on top of the Yellow Pages search.

Want more? If you look up the computer store where I bought my first Apple Mac - in 1990 – you’d find the store still listed at the same address with the same phone number ten years after the business packed up, left and disconnected its phone!

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture.

You might expect this outdated information from other print and online directories. But Yellow Pages is part of Telstra and the business of Telstra is telephone numbers, right?

If Telstra disconnects a telephone number, they know the business closed, right? So, as a subsidiary of Telstra, why doesn’t Sensis? Why list the number ten years after the business ceased to exist? How hard can it be?

I think you can see why Sensis’ huge problem might not only reflect a decline in print directories but also be a direct result of the product’s total inability to do its sole task effectively.

When the 2011 directories were delivered to my apartment building, they sat, unloved and gathering dust, on the floor for weeks. Very few people took them, even though they were free. Eventually, the building manager took them to the bins.

What must it cost to print and deliver all those directories, only for them to be discarded in rubbish bins?

Why would anyone use the Yellow Pages as a first choice these days? Consumers aren’t stupid, and if they know something is not accurate and up-to-date, they’ll dump it whether it’s online or not.

So how much are you allocating to Yellow Pages advertising these days? If you haven’t already reconsidered it, I suggest you do so quickly because your money could be far better spent elsewhere!

I’d start by making sure your website is easily recognised by Google, and begin researching an effective social media campaign. 
The online world affords small bricks and mortar retailers the ability to provide multi-channel platforms to consumers.

Best of all, it means you’re no longer forced to rely on dinosaurs like the Yellow Pages. After all, if you don’t keep up with the times, you might go the same way as the Yellow Pages; dumped in the trash, unnoticed and unread.

More reading:
Yellow Pages is useless

External Links:
Guess how other people are using the Yellow Pages?
What do you think?: Login and have 'Your Say' about Yellow Pages. 


Dear Coleby,
I acknowledge the search error you have highlighted and, clearly, we want to avoid these inaccuracies which I maintain are a minority. 
Yes, we are continuing to look at ways to improve the accuracy of our data and the introduction of new feature to Yellow Pages Online which allows users to report listing errors is one way we’re doing this – this is available at the top of every business listing page on the site.
I do agree with you that SME’s should consider a cost-effective, multi-channel approach to their marketing and Yellow Pages can provide a solution to suit every customer’s need or budget because we offer a lot more than just a print directory. Yellow Pages customers’ content is not only found in the Yellow Pages® Book – it also appears on our online and mobile sites and across the wider Yellow Pages® Search Network, including search engines such as Google™, Bing and Yahoo!7, mapping sites such as Whereis® and Google Maps™, plus Voice Directories such as 1234 and Call Connect, and a range of other specialty sites – all of the places where consumers search.  
The Yellow Pages Search Network is one of the biggest advertising networks in Australia – there are more than 15 million searches on our Network each month. As part of Yellow Pages multi-channel offering Yellow Pages helps customers with SEO, SEM and provides practical advice for SME’s that want to maintain an effective presence on social media. 
It’s also worth noting that Yellow Pages is a Google AdWords Premier SME partner – one of only a few in Australia. Sensis has also announced its partnership with Yelp, who are soon launching in Australia.  
In regard to the Yellow Pages print directory, there are an increasing number of people prefer to search using digital platforms, but there is still a proportion of the population rely on the book and, in turn, advertisers that generate leads from the book. However, everyone has a choice about whether or not they wish to receive a book. If you would prefer to not receive a copy of the book, you can register your details at www.directoryselect.com.au 
I hope that next time we chat you have had a more positive experience searching Yellow Pages.
Damian Glass
Senior Strategic Communications Manager
Corporate Affairs
Sensis Pty Ltd
Editor’s Note: While Mr Glass explains how the Yellow Pages is attempting to improve its service, all too often the user experience is destroyed with inaccurate or out-of-date data. All the marketing in the world will not overcome poor user experience and, in the online world, you quickly kiss customers goodbye if you do not deliver on your promise. 
Yellow Pages can continue to add all the bells and whistles it likes to its print and online directories, but if the company cannot ensure the integrity of its data then it will not help. Afterall, how does Yellow Pages explain the continued listing of a business that has not operated from the address or phone number for 10 years?
How can it explain listing jewellery stores three years after they closed? 
Mr Glass writes, “Yes, we are continuing to look at ways to improve the accuracy of our data and the introduction of new feature to Yellow Pages Online which allows users to report listing errors is one way we’re doing this – this is available at the top of every business listing page on the site,” but I maintain that it is not the user’s responsibility to ensure that Yellow Pages information is accurate!
I stand by my original proposition:
1. Telstra is in the business of “selling” phone numbers.
2. Sensis, a division of Telstra, is in the business of listing those phone numbers.
3. If Telstra disconnects phone numbers, why doesn’t Sensis know they’ve been disconnected?
4. If they do know, why does Sensis continue to list them, often many years after the business closed and the number was disconnected?
5. If Telstra and Sensis cannot communicate this information to each other, and that is their commercial activity, why should users do it for them?
After my article in December last year, and this follow-up, I was contacted by a number of people describing other problems with Yellow Pages. The common denominator was inaccurate or outdated information.
Yellow Pages might be “one of the biggest advertising networks in Australia” but that means nothing if you are simply “the biggest INACCURATE advertising network in Australia”. 
While the Yellow Pages has a fine history, with some of the best advertising campaigns Australia has even seen ('Let your fingers do the walking', 'Not happy Jan') the digital world cares little for, nor recognises, 'history'. 
I believe jewellery retailers and suppliers should closely monitor the cost and future benefit of using the Yellow Pages compared to other new, digital options. 
Coleby Nicholson - Editor


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Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

SAMS Group Australia

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