When you receive a new phone book, I bet you automatically discard the old one in the recyclable trash. Next time before you routinely throw out that old phone book, consider this, “When was the last time I actually used this thing?” For most people, me included, the answer may be never. Personally, the newly delivered phone book never makes it past my front door and go straight into the trash. Thinking about this drove me to ask, “What does this five pound paper weight have to offer me that I can’t get from using the Internet? Seems to me, phone books have become a remnant of the past, a leftover dinosaur from another era.
More and more, the Yellow Pages are being replaced by the modern marvels of the digital age. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, a large assortment of highly specified apps, and various search engines with local results and reviews are the resources we use now to get information.Now more than ever people have endless amounts of information literally at their fingertips via their laptops and smartphones. Most people have no interest in paging through a cumbersome, dirty paper book, filled with advertisements, to find a phone number and address.Well, truth be told, my 90 year old grandmother does prefer the old-fashioned yellow pages book, but that’s the only generation I can think of. Even the baby boomers are jumping on the technological bandwagon. Since almost everyone is shying away from the paper books, what can we do to stop this waste of money, time, and resource? Further, how do we optimally make use of this digital age and get the information we need?
How to opt-out
After doing some digging I found a site through Yellow Pages where users can unsubscribe from their local phone book mailing list. Being able to opt-out of the service is a great way to cut down on waste for those in the know; however, this is not a feature many are aware of. In fact, it seems this link was buried in the dark depths of the internet in order to keep members from removing themselves from the list. Furthermore, these distributors only let you opt-out for three years at a time and require you to opt-out of each provider’s services one at a time. I was able to remove myself from all my local provider’s lists in about 15-20 minutes. I felt that it was a very tedious process that, while necessary, was far more time consuming that it should have been.
I suppose the folk at Yellow Pages want to make their opt-out feature hidden and cumbersome in order to discourage people from doing it; but is that really in the best interest for you and for our natural resources? This current opt-out model has a lot of room for improvement in its visibility and its execution. Rather than the current opt-out feature, wouldn’t it be better to have an opt-in feature? That way, only people who wanted to receive phone books would receive them and no longer bother the millions of other consumers who are no longer interested. In doing this, in all likelihood, it would be the death of the paper phone book industry, but this change is necessary. This current wasteful resource no longer provides an efficient solution, so it only seems right that paper phonebook be replaced once and for all.
What’s replacing phone books?
As the importance of a personal and interactive business/consumer experience has evolved, it is clear why the benefits of finding information online have prevailed. Not only does the internet provide a much more complete listing of information, it offers it in a more up to date and easily accessible form than print ads could ever accomplish. It also provides a place for users to communicate directly with the businesses and consumers; this builds trust and credibility.
Recently, traditional phone book companies such as Yellow Pages and Qwest Dex have made the leap into the digital space to attempt to compete with their rival online solutions. Their service sites now offer similar advantages to their competitors and even import their reviews from sites like Yelp and City Search. It seems this transition is an indicator that the traditional phone books days are coming to a close.
Social review sites have definitely changed the way businesses and consumers interact. Websites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, and other social review sites have served as the new space for restaurant marketing. These websites are very powerful in this space due to their peer reviews and user interaction. Being able to see user submitted reviews and pictures, especially those by friends, greatly influences how consumers view your restaurant. The same goes for Google business reviews and social check-in services; the more traffic and responses people see to different establishments the more likely they are to view it highly without ever having heard of it or tried it before. Since these features are all selective for local searches, it results in far more valuable content for users in search of a specified service. For other businesses, services such as Angie's List and ServiceMagic can be very valuable for the same reasons.
It seems that phone books just can’t keep up with this new system of personalization and interaction. We as consumers have spoken up enough for these new services and applications to arise, but not enough to stop the extreme waste of these unused, bulky phone books. Do your part and help spread the word about opting-out and free up some of that cabinet space while you’re at it. Plus you can help the environment by saving some trees.
When was the last time you actually used a phone book? What services and apps do you use that have replaced them? Where do you think the evolution of business/consumer interaction will take us next?