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One of the recommendations we have been supporting and talking about over the past year is the need to look at the print directory differently. For the past 100-plus years, the directory has been viewed as a distribution media vehicle — “we deliver to every resident in a city.” In recent years, with distribution declining and local media fragmenting, people in our industry are still hung up on getting more books to more people rather than trying to view a directory as a series of verticals that reach different audiences, with different needs and varying levels of spending power.

Enter Larry Small, research director for the Yellow Pages Association, who supports one of our major views that demographics are an often ignored factor when considering the value of a print directory. While the industry has been concerned with the 18-25 crowd and how directories will adapt to attract and meet the needs of this group, Small points out that the real factor is not only age but disposable income.

He goes on to say: “One other metric to keep in mind is disposable income. The Yellow Pages industry has positioned itself as the best source for generating qualified leads. By definition, a qualified lead is one where people are ready to make a purchase — in other words, they have the need AND the resources to complete the sale.”

Small also shares this chart from that shows median net worth of individuals by age group:

Spending Power

With higher usage rates in the 35-65 age groups, the print directory has the capacity to reach more affluent spenders who have high discretionary spending in categories that are meaningful to a directory because of the life stages these age groups are in. Users in these age groups are spending on home renovation, financial services, house wares, cleaning services — all key directory headings. According to BIA/Kelsey’s research and U.S. Census data, those in the 35-65 age groups control nearly 80 percent of spending power in the US.

CRM Trends, which tracks changes in demographic trends points out: “Compared with the big-spending Baby Boom generation, these new spenders (18-30) will be less attractive as fewer will have reached their big-spending life stages. They will not only have less buying power, they will also be more fragmented into niche interest markets and will demand more personalization and be harder to reach with conventional marketing.”

Because a directory is essentially made up of a series of verticals, directory publishers would be well advised to look at these categories to determine if they have the appropriate content, editorial support and navigation for the age demographic the category attracts. Taking this approach might signal the need to redevelop different sections of the book rather than the entire directory, integrating more print to mobile or online products like SMS codes or QR Codes, rethinking distribution, or adding more unique/relevant content not generally found elsewhere or found in one location.

Freeing up the minds of print product managers to think in new ways about the directory and its varying target markets may indeed create greater innovation and product reconfigurations rather than simply offering more cosmetic changes.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Using net worth rather than buying power seems like a strange choice by Larry Small. Who are the older groups spending their money on, and who’s doing the research for the purchases? For example, people under 25 tend to move a lot, and each move includes a lot of expenses. The parents may pay for the rental truck, but it may be the kids who did the research for the purchase.

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