Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Who Uses Yellow Pages?

Robert Scoble writes that: "I don’t even know where mine are. I’d hate to work there, although there’s still money left in that old model cause there’s still lots of people who don’t look to their computers for everything."

I only partially agree. I don't use Yellow Pages nearly as much as I used to, but they're still pretty handy for tracking down what I might call "location-dependent services"--i.e. a local plumber, furnace repair guy, or nearby tree nurseries. Part of the issue in using the computer is that many of these types of businesses don't have Web presences. For this reason and others, Web tools that provide results based on physical location, such as Google Maps, are fairly incomplete relative to the Yellow Pages. (The fact that the Yellow Pages are close to a de facto monopoly in any given locale helps them aggregate essentially all the relevant local advertisers. Google's market power notwithstanding, location-based search and directories in the online world are far more fragmented.)

I don't dispute that, in general, the (physical) Yellow Pages have declined and will continue to decline in importance--if for no other reason that if I'm having trouble tracking some item I need down, I'll simply go online and buy it if possible. However, given that searching based on location is yet something else that search doesn't do well today--see this posting here for a description of some other problems--the big yellow book provides at least an interim alternative.
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