Polling firm Market Authority has come out with some new data specific to the San Francisco Bay Area, which shows 69% of residents are “still” using print directories. The survey polled 1,300 consumers in Daly City, Freemont, Heyward, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Sunnyvale.
The data also show 31% of respondents use the Internet exclusively to find local business information. The survey was conducted by telephone between mid January and February 1, 2012.
Market Authority characterized print usage by the 69% as at least “occasional.” It added, however, that for older consumers the print directory is often or generally primary:
The most significant finding of the study is that Baby Boomers and seniors, who control the lion’s share of spending in the local market, turned to the printed directory FIRST 64% of the time.
As expected the survey found younger consumers “turned to the Internet far more than older consumers.”
One can spin these results as a big positive for print YP, undermining the false perception that “print is dead.” But print critics can also use the data to argue that “print is on the way out.”
I think the fair way to interpret these findings is to say that the market is fragmented and advertisers must be mindful of their target audiences. If they’re older than 35-40 and fall into certain categories (e.g., homeowners) then print makes sense. If they’re younger, print YP is going to be much less effective. However the perception that no one is using print is clearly incorrect.
These data also show the importance of a “consultative” sales approach by publishers. A “one size fits all” approach isn’t going to work for advertisers and most publishers at least pay lip service to that idea.
Market Authority added (based on Q4 2011 research) that 18% of Bay Area consumers don’t have any Internet access and 38% own smartphones. The latter number is at odds with Nielsen figures which put US smartphone ownership at 46% of the total mobile subscriber population.
Update: Market Authority CEO Steve Sitton clarified that the 38% smartphone number (and discrepancy with Nielsen) is likely a function of the fact that the survey sample is “all consumers” not just mobile users.