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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Let your fingers do the Googling

    July 8th, 2011 by admin

    When your dryer is no longer capable of drying clothes, it suddenly becomes a worthless appliance. Time to call the Maytag Repairman!

    My dryer is an old Maytag that was already in this house I bought and it looks like it’s from the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Old. With a stack of Yellow Pages RIGHT NEXT TO ME I launched Safari on my computer and searched for “Maytag Repair.” I may have even moved them out of the way to open my computer (but that might be exaggerating a bit).

    I got a couple of hits and called…they couldn’t come out until next week.

    I widened my search with “appliance repair” and found a guy near my house with FIVE STARS and a couple of good reviews. This dude was willing to come to my house for $9.95 to review the problem before doing the rapair…SOLD!

    The ability to quickly find what I’m looking for, see the location on a map and read feedback from previous customers is far better than what a printed Yellow Pages has EVER offered me.

    How many times have you heard me say (or read me type) “If it can be digitized, it will be.”

    One of the important ingredients to something becoming a viable digital alternative to it’s printed counterpart is benefit. Is the print version still the best option or does the digital version offer something better?

    What defines better? That can mean different things to different consumers. In the case of Yellow Pages, let’s look at how a printed book fails compared to a digital alternative.

    • Portability. I remember stores selling small versions of the thick book to keep in your car…who wants to lug that around, eh?
    • Search ability. How many times have to looked under Pizza and it says “See Restaurants” or vice versa.
    • Immediacy. How often have you picked up a phone book and tried to call a business, only to realize you’re using an outdated book and the company isn’t there anymore?
    • Green. There’s no question that printing a book that size, plus distribution, takes a lot of paper, chemicals and fuel.
    • Customer feedback. The closest the Yellow Pages can come to this is testimonials in ads…and those are only positive and selected by the advertiser. Online alternatives allow you, the consumer, to give your feedback for others to benefit from.
    • Immediate links to more information. Once you find a business that interests you, you’re just a hyperlink away from as much information as that customer wants to throw at you. Full menus, video, online ordering and more.
    • Social media. Some sites are not integrated with Facebook, Twitter and more so your comments are posted for your friends and followers. Say you eat at a great Turkish restaurant and want to comment…your comment isn’t just feedback, it’s an advertisement for your friends to find out about a place they’ve never been.
    • Mapping. When I travel I often call out for a pizza or need to locate a store nearby. I have wasted too many days of my life reading area codes, guessing at addresses and even calling locations to ask which one is close to me.
    • Directions. Okay, it’s a sub-benefit to mapping, but being able to quickly plan a route to the location is a huge benefit for me.

    So why are Yellow Pages still being printed and distributed if they aren’t as good as the digital alternative? Two reasons: there is still a large enough consumer base that uses them and advertisers are used to buying it.

    What happens when more people stop using Yellow Pages in favor of digital alternatives?

    Several things start happening at once that can cause a very quick demise of the printed product.

    • A demographic shift. Whereas historically a general audience has used the Yellow Pages, you’ll see a shift to a specific demographic, like a specific age, income bracket or geographic area. When this happens advertisers start looking at who, specifically, the Pages reaches and will choose to continue advertising, or not, based on who their target customer is.
    • Cost of doing business. Yellow Pages, just like any other business, relies on X amount of advertising to match sales, production and distribution costs. As advertisers dwindle, the cost of ads would need to increase to compensate, which means advertisers start thinking harder about continuing with that ad they’ve run for years.
    • Printing costs. San Fransisco just passed an ordinance banning delivery of Yellow Pages unless they receiver has signed an opt-in agreeing to receive it. Think about that for a second. Let’s just say that 25 percent of the people in SF didn’t sign it, how does that affect the printing and distribution cost per copy for the remaining 75 percent (I would guess it’s more like 50 percent). As the cost goes up per book, if advertising rates can’t go up to compensate, they’re out of business. If one publisher goes out of business, then another, how is that going to impact the cost of materials and manufacturing? It’s a row of dominoes that, once tipped, is irreversible.
    • Digital alternatives. Need a restaurant, get the Urban Spoon app or just go to I have used Yelp. I found a great little Italian restaurant in Clearwater Beach, FL. I liked it so well I commented on it. I like having a voice in my purchasing experience and holding businesses accountable for the quality of business they offer.

    Mr. Handyman said I needed a new motor in my old Maytag. I also asked him to replace the tray in my dish washer. The tray was expensive, I thought, but the fact that he wanted $50 to put it in was crazy. I said “Can’t I just put that in myself?”

    “Oh, no” he replied…”it’s tricky.”

    Fine. I gave him the go ahead and he said he would be out Saturday to fix it. I guess Saturday means Thursday and I had to call a couple of times to see what was up.

    When he finally arrived, he fixed the motor and I made some comment about the tray and he said “Oh that just takes a second…”

    Um…$50 for something that just takes a second? How tricky is THAT!

    When the owner of the company called the next day to ask how everything went I said “Well, to be blunt, I’m not totally satisfied. I chose your company because you had five stars on the Google search, but I can’t give you five stars.”

    She quickly asked me what she could do to keep me happy so I would be willing to give her five stars and a review…smart lady. She obviously knows people are turning to Google and other digital methods to find what they need.

    I just read the reviews on a bike shop I use near my house. I have to say that if I didn’t know this guy, I would NEVER do business with him based on the reviews…especially since a new bike shop opened around the corner from him.

    The reviews are bad, he has 2.5 stars and there is one bad review where two people have clicked “Yes, this review helped me” aka “I won’t do business here.”

    The new bike shop, just around the corner, has five stars.

    In my opinion he should save his money on Yellow Pages and spend it on a better store front and work to get better reviews for the next customer who needs a new bike or bike repair and Googles “Bikes Kansas City.”

    One Response to “Let your fingers do the Googling”

    1. Todd Norton Says:

      I went car shopping the other day and the salesperson was going on about how the internet has taken out most negotiating. He said they are constantly checking their prices based on others in the area. They wouldn’t cut us much of a deal, yet a day later they dropped the price $1000! I don’t know if this relates to your post at all, but I know you will feel enlightened by my comments.

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