Down to Business: Opting out of Yellow Pages delivery is quick, easy
Rejoice, households in Esperance: you no longer have to take delivery of six Yellow Pages telephone books. In Guilderland, Amsterdam and Delanson, where five directories are the norm, you, too, can decide whether to get one, two or none at all.
In fact, anyone anywhere in the Capital Region — or the nation, for that matter — can log on to one website, enter their ZIP code and then choose what books to receive, thanks to an initiative by two industry trade groups that went live this month.
The website, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, is a cinch to use. Registering your name, phone number, and street and email addresses takes little time; authorization is almost immediate, after which you can return to the site to “customize” — as the directory publishers term it — your books.
An explosion of phone books followed the breakup of American Telephone & Telegraph Co. in 1984 as all of the resulting “Baby Bells” — and independent publishers, too — began producing directories. The sought-after prize was the Yellow Pages, the hefty book of business telephone numbers and paid advertisements that today rings up close to $30 billion worldwide in print and online sales.
The directory arms race sparked some pushback, though, as consumers balked at receiving multiple books. Communities complained about the volume, too — particularly directories left at vacant addresses or piled high at apartment buildings — and environmental advocates slammed all those books winding up in the waste stream.
Publishers responded with new “green” efforts — soy-based ink, paper produced from wood-chip waste, more compact directories — and offered consumers 1-800 numbers to curtail deliveries.
Then, under the aegis of the Yellow Pages Association and the Association of Directory Publishers, they created the website that launched Feb. 1. While the trade groups lauded it as a one-stop convenience, one industry analyst saw the site as a way to stay ahead of stricter municipal regulation.
“It’s long been conventional wisdom that Yellow Pages can survive opt-out as long as there is consumer and small-business support for the product,” Charles Laughlin, a senior vice president at media consultant BIA/Kelsey, wrote soon after the launch. “Opt-in [as outlined in some proposed local laws] is seen as a potential death blow to Yellow Pages, since people who use the book may well fail to opt in and adopt other usage habits.”
In the Capital Region, delivery of three to four Yellow Pages directories is typical — not surprising since three national publishers are in the market: SuperMedia LLC, which produces directories for Verizon, the area’s dominant phone service provider; Yellowbook, an independent publisher based on Long Island; and LocalEdge, an independent publisher from Buffalo that formerly operated as The Talking Phone Book and now is owned by Hearst Corp.
But they aren’t the only publishers in the market. Ohio-based Berry Co., for instance, produces a Gloversville-Johnstown directory for Frontier Communications Corp. and one for Rotterdam Junction from Pattersonville Telephone Co. SuperMedia and Yellowbook also publish multiple regional books.
That’s why households in Esperance (ZIP 12066) get six directories: two from SuperMedia (the Cobleskill and Schenectady-Southern Saratoga editions); two from Yellowbook (Schoharie County and Capital District Area); LocalEdge (Albany); and Frontier’s Gloversville-Johnstown.
My ZIP code indicated four Yellow Pages books on the opt-out site, so I quickly jumped on to cut that in half. But I had to curb my enthusiasm at this note after I finished: that processing takes six to 12 weeks and so, depending on publication schedules, I still might receive four 2011 directories. That was disappointing but it’s a start nevertheless.