Does The Connected Consumer Still Consult Traditional Print Media?

In recent years, as search engine usage has dominated headlines, there has been a widespread pessimism about the survival of the print medium. This applies not only to newspapers and magazines but especially to directional media like Print Yellow Pages directories.  As media usage fragments further with the addition of  iPads and continued adoption of smart phones, offline Publishers have responded with the force of innovation that has spawned Internet, mobile, iPad and social media offerings. The time crunched consumer now has a plethora of media options competing to be relevant as they near the point of purchase. Will Print Directories survive?

Consumers are now accustomed to not only consuming media at their convenience, but also interacting with multiple sources simultaneously— both on and offline. 72% of consumers use their smartphone while doing something else, the current DAC landscape study found. Consumer choice is now contextual with on-the-go consumers choosing what is most convenient at that specific moment.

One of the most powerful findings of the recent DAC landscape study is the continued use of traditional advertising mediums such as Yellow Pages directories in key service categories.  Although Print directories have experienced a critical drop in usage in the past 3 years, there remains a large group of core users who continue to regularly rely on the medium. The core user is not limited to retired seniors or those who have no regular access to broadband. 

As with online media, usage is dependent on context. It is easier and more effective to reach for the Print book when home owners have a leak in a pipe or a broken garage door. In fact 38% of them will go to the Print directory first to find a plumber[1]. Core users tend to be over the age of 35 and live in homes in the suburbs. Far from being luddites, these consumers use both online and offline sources. They just happen to reach first for the Print Yellow Pages because of convenience. This happens in households across the country as current industry studies conducted by Burke show that the directory generated 16 billion references last year. Even if Google remains the king of the online search engine world or if social media networks usurp Google’s dominant position, Print directories have carved out a niche that allows them to remain relevant to both consumers and local businesses alike.

Although directory decline will continue to face pressure in the coming years which will force it to adapt, we should instead focus on the rise of the mobile consumer who, when faced with many options at the point of purchase, still continues to use print directories.


[1] DAC Landscape study, conducted by Kantar with 5,000 North Americans in October 2011

Sandy Scopa, Director of Research

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