In recent years the print telephone-directory business has followed its customers to the Web, hoping online search would be its salvation. But that strategy hasn't panned out, and the
economic downturn is sending the business into a tailspin.
So many directory services are vying for the dwindling ad dollars of local businesses that no single site has an authoritative roster, or a leading brand name. Topping that off, traffic growth for yellow pages sites overall is slowing.
Numbers tell the story: Print and online ad spending on yellow pages will drop 6.3% next year, more than double the decline at broadcast TV, according to Wachovia. In the next four years, ad spending will fall 39% in print directories alone -- the steepest projected decline across all local-media categories, per Borrell Associates. Shares of top publishers, R.H. Donnelley and Idearc have plummeted 99% in the past year.