Yellow Pages Grow While Other Media Tumble

by , Jun 25, 2002, 12:00 AM
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Okay, what is the only recession-proof medium? If you said yellow pages, you're right. Last year, when every other form of media saw huge dips in ad revenue, yellow pages revenues rose 5.39% to $14.4 billion, which is much lower than TV and newspaper which combine for $105 billion, but higher than magazine and Internet.

These were among the facts and figures presented at the Simba Yellow Pages 2002 and Beyond conference yesterday, which continues today in New York.

One of yesterday's speakers was Andrew Buchholtz, managing director of Veronis Suhler Stevenson (formerly Veronis Suhler), a merchant media banking firm also in the yellow pages business, which is well known for its advertising forecasts. Buchholtz compared yellow pages revenue with other media, finding it continuously healthy but static -- it doesn't drop during recessions, nor will it rise much during recoveries, like the one that is taking place now and has boosted TV revenue during the upfront.

He said there was $172 billion in ad revenue last year, which represents 30% of all commercial industrial spending, a decline of 6.2% from 2000. Yellow pages was "the only form of media that didn't decline last year, it's more consistent," he said.

Buchholtz compared the 5.39% growth in yellow pages revenue to last year’s drops in TV (3.9%), radio (6%) and newspaper (he didn't provide a number, but said it was the medium's "worst year in decades").

Looking more closely at yellow pages, he said it represented 12.4% of all local ad spending last year, compared with 13% in 1996. There's a small dip there, but there was a growth in national yellow pages spending, to 11.8%t last year from 11.6% in 2000.

He called for "slow, steady growth" for yellow pages advertising. It will rise to $14.6 billion this year and $16.3 billion by 2006 with a compound annual growth rate of 2.5%.

Buchholtz also examined the two main types of yellow pages publishers, the local RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies) and the independents, finding more growth in the RBOCs, 12.8% last year compared with 1.5% for the independents.

One reason for RBOC growth is that they're selling new forms of white pages advertising. Qwest Dex has introduced corner repeating ads and ads in the business white pages with yellow highlights. BellSouth offers column display ads with color enhancements. SBC Directory Operations offers display ads in the residential listings. And Verizon Information Services offers a variety of banner ads in almost half its local phone books.

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