The Trouble With Statistics…

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recently, several studies about print directory usage have been published with seemingly different results. The most controversial is one executed by Market Authority, a media tracking firm. The study results claim that directory usage is more dominant than digital usage when consumers are searching for business information. They indicated that in the U.S. the perception that Print Yellow Pages usage was at 28% with the remaining 72% defined as digital usage is false. Their own internal research placed Directory usage at 76% in the U.S while digital usage remained much lower. This not only contradicts the prevailing studies in the market, but also does directory industry a disservice.

The Market Authority research is looking at the media specific context as opposed to the complex multi-layered consumer experience which exists in our everyday lives. Both publisher research and independent research confirm that search engines are by far the number one choice when consumers are searching for business information. When you look at a broad definition of usage—using the directory once per year, LSA research does support high directory usage at 74%, but this does not come close to defining how directories are being used in the marketplace. Category, demographic and geographic considerations are key to understanding how directories fit into the media mix. It is not a matter of one media dominating to the exclusion of others.

Contrasting results

The Local Search Association’s annual study carried out by Burke Institute, on the other hand, found annual references to the Yellow Pages Directories continued the transformation from print centric to digital in 2010 with one third of look-ups attributed to IYP. Total Directory searches declined 1.8% to 16.6 billion with the Internet Yellow Pages increasing 14.3% to 5.6 billion and print declining 8.3% to 11 billion. Their research indicates that overall Directory references have remain relatively steady but declining somewhat at 16.5 billion to 17 billion for the past few years. DAC’s proprietary Landscape study conducted by media research giant Kantar is in line with other significant media studies indicating that search engines are the number one place consumers search at 71% while Print Yellow Pages usage remains at 27%.

Interestingly when you look at how consumers use multiple media—directory usage seems to increase. Directories remain key when consumers are close to the point of purchase looking for a store or business location. Tracking leads is essential to determining the actual extent to which the directory — whether online or print — is helping the bottom line.

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