For years – since the advent of the smartphone – users of the Yellow Pages who needed to find the phone number of a local business have been turning in greater and greater droves from print directories to digital sources via wireless internet. There are a number of factors as to why this has happened, and continues to happen, but the most common is the simple fact that it’s convenient to do so. The ease and speed in which one can procure the information that they’re looking for from a small device in the palm of their hand as opposed to tracking down and cracking open a big, heavy book and pouring through its endless pages is certainly the more enticing option of the two. Yet, despite its dwindling readership, advertising customers, and distribution in the face of its digital brethren, the print Yellow Pages have continued to hold on for dear life…until now, according to experts, and the beginning of the end has started in England of all places.
At the beginning of September of this year, Yell, the company behind the Yellow Pages in England – who started publishing the book in 1966 – has officially announced that the Isle of Britain will be going digital-only for its Yellow Page needs, as print editions will be discontinued permanently in January of 2019. The final edition will be distributed in Brighton, which is ironically enough the very same city where the first-ever edition of Yell’s Yellow Pages hit doorsteps when originally launched over 40 years ago.
The news that an entire country is giving up on print Yellow Pages is big news, but the fact is that Yell has seen the writing on the wall for some time now and has been preparing for the transition to digital; they have opened a listings site of their own in addition to creating mobile apps, but the final decision to give the ax to print altogether is a sure-fire sign of a major shift in their customer base and a genuine attempt to give them what they want. Perhaps to capitalize on the notoriety of the end of print business directories in England, Yell is currently running a campaign urging businesses to “advertise in the final editions of the U.K.’s No. 1 printed classified directory.” As if the final copies of the Yellow Pages will become a collector’s item of sorts, Yell suggests the print edition will “be retained by local users for many years” and effectively targets older and rural audiences who either have not yet or flat-out refused to migrate to digital options. Apart from that, the main incentive is an offer to “combine your Yellow Pages advertising with digital advertising” as a way of getting those stubborn few businesses that continue to cling to print ads to finally get their feet wet with internet-based options.
First public phone boxes were ripped up and carted away as cell phone use rendered them obsolete, and it only seems proper that cell phones – as they evolved technologically into far more versatile “smartphones” – would eventually do the same to the Yellow Pages. The internet has had a particularly broad impact on publishing, causing the closure or moving online of various print publications over the years. Print Yellow Pages have simply become the latest victim of this powerful trend, and its only a matter of time before this trend makes its way across the pond to the United States, where print Yellow Pages are currently on life support; eventually someone is going to pull the plug there as well.