Survey: 33% of Urbanites Only Use Print YP for Local Lookups

This may be very difficult for some to accept: recent survey data released by Market Authority indicate 33% of metro market consumers rely exclusively on print yellow pages for local business lookups. The data are based on 15,000 telephone interviews done in late 2011, with US adults in markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Boston, Atlanta and others.

Market Authority found the following about media usage for local in rural and major metro areas in the aggregate:

Metro markets:

  • Print YP use only: 33%
  • Both print YP and online: 40%
  • Online only: 27%

In this case “online” includes IYP, search engines and sites like Yelp. It also includes (I believe) smartphone-based local lookups.

What the data above effectively mean is that more than 70% of respondents said they use print yellow pages. This finding will strike some people as implausible.

Rural markets:

  • Print YP use only: 49%
  • Both print YP and online: 42%
  • Online only: 9%

In the rural market case over 90% are reporting current use of print YP.

If one were to look at individual markets (e.g., NYC or SF) the numbers might be different but in the aggregate they show that print YP usage (remarkably) is still quite strong. Unless you’re going to claim that these data are fabricated or rigged (which I don’t believe) they say what they say: print YP is still widely used. And the sample size is extremely large: 15,000.

In metro markets Market Authority also found that 40% of consumer-respondents had smartphones. Penetration was 27% in rural areas.

What do you think? Do you believe these data or do you have some alternative explanation for these findings?

Update: Almost  nobody who commented below believes these findings or accepts them at face value. In advance of the demographic information from Market Authority, here’s some demographic usage information from a yellow pages study conducted in 2011 by Burke (on behalf of the Local Search Assn.):

Those under 34 are more likely to use search most often to find local information. Those 25-34 are more likely to use IYP most often; those over 55 use print yellow pages and other traditional media (e.g., newspapers, coupons) more often than online.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed.

23 Responses to “Survey: 33% of Urbanites Only Use Print YP for Local Lookups”

  1. Electrician says at

    Whilst these statistics may (potentially) be believable, I would like to see the data broken down by demographic and/or “total spend on services”. 

    My bet would be that the people still using the print option are (a) Not in the demographics that advertisers are targeting, and (b) spending a lot less than those that use the online channels.

  2. Shiri says at

    Shocking results! Did they check the ages of these print YP users?

  3. Greg says at

    Yes, other research has shown that younger users are more inclined toward electronic media and mobile and other users are the ones that are print-centric. I’ll go back and ask about demographics. 

  4. Bob says at

    Any market research company that purports to be impartial and then specifically posts it’s agenda at the top of its homepage as “Empowering the continuing viability of print…” leaves me very skeptical.
    As a former IYP veteran and current owner of an agency that provides services to local businesses, I can state unequivocally that every single one of our clients has thanked us for eliminating their emotional (unscientific) reliance on YP/IYP.
    For the last three years, we’ve been running campaigns for clients with all the large YP and IYP (and a dozen other sources) with online and offline tracking, culminating with reports that show them their cost per source for each click, call, lead, sales appointment and ultimately sale. We then increase the use of low value sources and decrease the high value ones (as long as inventory allows). Ultimately, our clients are now almost exclusively off YP. IYP listings are fine at the basic level – but no IYP is price competitive for ancillary digital services.
    If the #’s are to be believed, our clients should have received more value from their former YP and IYP listings compared to the alternatives. Then there’s the overall 20% a year decline the industry is seeing in revenues compared to everywhere else – where revenues are increasing.
    No, these results simply don’t make sense from either direct experience or anecdotal industry-wide experience. They leave me feeling like this industry market research company, who’s interest is in “Empowering the continuing viability of print…”, is simply creating material the industry can use to justify their sales pitches.

  5. Greg Sterling says at


    Clearly your view is the consensus. I was surprised by the figure that 33% of metro residents only used print. But I do believe these are the results the company got from its survey.

    I will follow up on demographics.

  6. Dmitry says at

    I don’t even remember when was the last time a actually saw the book. But 33%? Well, with the older audience maybe – hard to defeat the habit I guess.

  7. Brad Simonis says at

    Hi Greg,
    For the past year I have been exclusively doing Local SEO for chiropractors, veterinarians and dentists nationwide for I manage approximately 75 accounts and every single doctor I talk to is dramatically cutting down on, or eliminating YP print because they are telling me it simply doesn’t work anymore. I realize that this is a biased, small sample survey, but small business/service providers know best as to how new customers are finding them.


  8. Greg says at


    Yep. That’s my sense as well — declining usage. However the company’s data say what they say. I’m pursuing demographic information and I’ve conveyed the skepticism being expressed here. 

    We’ll see what they return with. 

  9. Jim Rudnick says at

    would love to know the age demographics for this survey…that would prove I’d think that it’s older folks who use paper…so if you get same Greg, pls update this post….


  10. Greg Sterling says at

    Yep. Going to update when I get the info.

  11. Fred Meyer says at

    I’ll be very interested to see what demographic data they provide. Some of those urban markets are very wired and very “youth-centric”– especially Boston!

  12. Greg says at

    Yep . . . will provide as soon as I receive anything. 

  13. Print Ads vs. Online Ads | matthewctorres says at

    […] “Those under 34 are more likely to use search most often to find local information. Those 25-34 are more likely to use IYP most often; those over 55 use print yellow pages and other traditional media (e.g., newspapers, coupons) more often than online.” (Screenwork) […]

  14. Tom M says at

    One of the things I think that people don’t realize is how many “empty nesters” and baby boomers live in metro areas (the people who are responding that they don’t believe this  may be young and only hang out in places where similar kids hang out, but that doesn’t mean the entire city doesn’t have a diverse demographic makeup. I think when you see the age breakdown you’ll see exactly like you said: younger consumers don’t use it as much as older ones. 

    Market Authority is positioning itself as helping traditional media understand that their existing printed products still provide significant value in the marketplace. They help publishers manage their migration in a digital world. It’s a need that is necessary since 75+% of revenues (and more importantly profit) for YP and media companies comes from traditional media. While under fire and used less than 10 years ago, traditional media are still valuable products in the local community. If one person who sold YP/IYP to dozens of advertisers isn’t getting the value, then its either their category, the product he was selling, or a combination of the two. That’s not a large enough sample versus 15,000 consumers. 

    Revenues are going down in traditional media because of the “perception” in the marketplace that no one uses them (along with a weak economy). While usage is not at the same level as it was 10 years ago, it’s still a very viable marketing tool in local areas. If no one found value, then revenues would go to zero.  While I’m sure this person’s digital agency (and digital in general) is growing revenue, it’s still not perfect (see the churn rate of some of these SEM firms as a Exhibit A that it’s not for everyone). 

  15. Mike says at

    Maybe a flaw in methodology, especially if survey was only land-line consumers that would actually take a call to do a survey. Good chance mobile was excluded (a large number of folks are now mobile as primary number), also a good chance there is a large block of more saavy folks that block or don’t take surveys on the phone. I think both those groups would poll very differently.

  16. Electrician says at

    It seems that everyone is calling them out on the relevance of this data.

    5 years ago, Yellow Pages would have been able to use a survey like this to scare advertisers into using them. Nowadays, announcing data like this comes across as unrealistic if not a joke. 

    The days of scaring advertisers into staying with the Yellow Pages are over.

  17. Street Fight Daily: 01.26.12 | Street Fight says at

    […] video (+22.4%), and mobile (+44.2%).Survey: 33% of Urbanites Only Use Print YP for Local Lookups (ScreenWerk) Greg Sterling: This may be very difficult for some to accept: recent survey data released by […]

  18. Thomas says at

    Greg –
    The print usage IS very strong and we have the data to prove it! We utilize call measurement services on advertisers in all categories – professional, retail, service, automotive, restaurants, and B2B.

    Here are examples of CURRENT average monthly results for the most recent year:

    Professional: Dentist – 85 calls per month, Attorney – 29 calls per month
    Retail: Hardware: 226 calls per month; Florist; 61 calls per month
    Service: Plumbing: 78 calls per month; Glass Service: 129 calls per month
    Automotive: Auto Repair: 57 calls per month; Tires: 66 calls per month
    Restaurants: 94 calls per month; 67 calls per month
    B2B: Contractor Rental: 140 calls per month; Waste Mgmt.: 338 calls per mo.

    I think everyone agrees that online usage is increasing, however how do you refute ACTUAL PHONE CALLS? They are proof positive! And the call results are outstanding!

    By the way, the calls are recorded, therefore the business owners can listen to the quality of the calls generated – these customers are making dinner reservations, requesting bids for services, placing orders, and scheduling appointments.

    The Market Authority findings are right on target. Our data supports it.

  19. Greg says at

    Thanks Thomas. Interesting to hear what others would say to your data. Are you with an agency? 

  20. Lori says at

    Interesting that the people who claim this data is falsified or done with a hidden agenda are also individuals who make their living selling competitive forms of advertising …..pot, have you met kettle?

  21. Market Authority’s Demographic Data on YP Print vs Internet Usage says at

    […] couple of weeks ago I reported findings from Market Authority‘s survey of 15K consumers in metro and rural markets about […]

  22. YPG: Online Now 29% of Total Revenues says at

    […] often extends to usage research. When data come out supporting the value of print directories there’s frequently skepticism or or outright dismissal of the veracity of the […]

  23. Thomas says at

    Three years ago I joined a YP as a sales rep with an eye on the new media services offered. After a year of my sales manager questioning my belief in the effectiveness of YP, I experienced a change in my own beliefs due to a greater emphasis on call tracking & recording by the company. Without a doubt I’ve seen and heard the proof. I realized print YP is still a viable resource in this metro area with a population of over 400,000.
    It’s those aged 50-55+ for the most part,but certainly not exclusively. I believe we all know people that are not comfortable with the internet, we just don’t realize it AND THOSE PEOPLE ARE NOT JUMPING UP TO ANNOUNCE THIS EMBARRASSMENT.
    Even though I go through my day with this belief, I’m still caught by surprise time and again by people who don’t know even the BASICS about the internet, search engines, and websites. They are out there!

  24. Scott says at

    One thing to be said about Yellow Pages is that it’s nice to have all the names and numbers laid out real quick in a page or two.  If you are looking for something specific, you can just go down the line and call all the numbers to ask if they have what you are looking for.  If you think about it, it’s not always that simple with online searches.  I use Google Maps mostly, but I can see how old people still like YP.  I haven’t told any of my clients to drop the YP yet.  I just make sure they are available on internet local search directories as well.

  25. Scott says at

    But yeah, I think the numbers are wrong too.

  26. John Tabita says at

    “Almost  nobody who commented below believes these findings or accepts them at face value.”

    I find that’s typical in these types of discussions. Yet the same people who doubt the findings of established media research firms have no trouble believing someone who says “I asked a roomful of people ‘who uses the Yellow Pages?’ and only one person raised their hand.”

    Please don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind’s made up.

  27. Chestnut says at

    Amazing things below. I am quite glad to talk to your article. Thank you for taking a look in advance get in touch with you. Are you going to i implore you to lower us a e-mail?

  28. Google’s Matt Cutts Recommends Yellow Pages | Haines Local Search says at

    […] Survey: 33% of Urbanites Only Use Print YP for Local Lookups […]

  29. Six Things Your SEO Firm Doesn’t Want You to Know | Haines Local Search says at

    […] Yellow Page usage has declined in major metropolitan markets, usage in suburban and rural areas remains […]

Leave a Reply