A short history of Yellow Pages
The first Yellow Pages was created in 1886 by Reuben Donnelley in Chicago in 1886. The use of yellow pages in the publication was an outcome of a printer running out of white paper and using yellow instead, in 1883. The iconic walking fingers logo was created by Henry Alexander in 1962 and it was only a year before the logo was adopted by Yellow Pages across the globe.
There is, or was, a Yellow Pages for every country in the world. In Australia YellowPages is created by Sensis who are wholly owned by Telstra. They began publication in Australia 1906.
A slow death
Since the advent of Google and SEO Yellow Pages Australia’s popularity has steadily
Though this loss in popularity could arguably be wholly attributed to the difference between online and Traditional Markets (The Law and Economics of Online vs. Traditional Markets), it seems more likely that the Australian Yellow Pages is a victim to falling behind the times and not having a good understanding or grounding in shifts in technology and search behaviours. This is not to say that Yellow Pages Australia hasn’t attempted to keep up with the times. They have an online version of the Yellow Pages and offer web developers tools to help integrate Yellow Pages into their websites.
Yellow Pages Australia have attempted to re-brand themselves as web savvy and technology capable but their continuing drop in popularity leads to me to the conclusion that they don’t really understand what is going on in the world right now. Fundamentally they stick to the same pay per advertisement business model and, though they have attempted to enter into the age of Web Services,they don’t seem to take advantage of the benefits that Web Services and, in particular, Social Media can offer.
If Yellow Pages Australia is to have any kind of a future it must re-envisage not only its marketing and sales strategy but also its product development strategy.
Product Development – Co-create products
To leverage the principle of participation Yellow Pages Australia could convert its traditionally business owner created advertisements into a wiki. Wikipedia has proven that users are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise on a given subject. Google’s business pages have proven that consumers also are happy to share information about businesses they do and don’t like.
By allowing consumers to create, comment on, and manage business listings Yellow Pages Australia would be able to offer a product that contains information meaningful to customers of a given type of business (customers usually have a better idea of what they want from a business than a business does) and would have up to date and meaningful reports on the current status of a business that wouldn’t even need to be updated by the business owners themselves.
Marketing and Sales – Derive customer insights
By allowing consumers to comment upon business listings Yellow Pages Australia would be able to offer an up to date picture on the current status of a given business. Furthermore, by monitoring comments made by consumers, business would be able to respond to problems in their products and / or gain meaningful feedback.
It is even likely that comments made by consumers may offer businesses crowd sourced ideas about how they can better run their business or improve upon their product offerings.
Though risks would be associated with both of these new modes of operation the
relevance and immediacy of the consumer based sources of information would turn
Yellow Pages from a bland static source of information into a dynamic and self-updating
source of information. Additionally, by asking the audience to participate in
the creation of their product, Yellow Pages Australia would be able to harness
a collective intelligence far greater than that of its existing staff base.