Study: Print YP Ads Driving More Calls but Will Anyone Listen?

yellow pagesSince the rise of the internet and Google in particular print directory ads have lost most of their credibility. There’s evidence (from multiple sources) that print ads still “work” and drive valuable leads for local businesses. But there’s now considerable skepticism in the SMB marketplace about the value of print advertising.

Against that backdrop, a new study sponsored by the Association of Directory Publishers asserts that calls generated by print yellow pages ads have actually grown since 2010:

Among the study’s findings, calls to businesses from print ads in ADP-member directories increased 28 percent between 2010 and 2013. The median number of calls per year from an advertiser’s print ad was 197, at a cost per call of $15.50.

Some people reading this will reject this assertion outright as biased or manipulated. The findings in the study are based on tracking more than 200,000 calls to local businesses across more than 1,000 directory headings.

Here’s additional argument about the value of print vs. digital and mobile leads presented by the study:

Dr. Fromholzer [the author of the research] suggested one area that differentiates print performance from digital is conversion. “Calls to businesses from Yellow Pages ads have a 50 percent conversion rate, compared with three percent for online. In addition, print sales have a higher per-customer value. One reason for this is that 80 percent of the top print directory headings are service-related and high-value purchases, compared with online and mobile purchases, which tend to be more retail and entertainment-related.”

Many people simply will not allow the possibility that these findings might be accurate. I don’t know enough about the study to attest to its credibility. But I do believe that print hasn’t been drained of all its value by digital. And ironically in a noisy digital media landscape print might have renewed value.

Nielsen data show that consumers still trust print advertising more than digital media. On the list below digital ads (search, video, display, mobile) are at the bottom of the list. Newspaper and magazine ads rank near the top. Yellow pages advertising apparently wasn’t offered among the choices.

Consumer trust in media

My question is: what would it take to convince you that the findings in the ADP sponsored study (or others like it) were accurate? What would you need to see or understand?

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2 Responses to “Study: Print YP Ads Driving More Calls but Will Anyone Listen?”

  1. jlpeaslee says at

    Greg,

    I do a lot of work for the LSA in regards to how consumers find information on local products and services. While I don’t know all the details of this specific report, a lot of variables would come into play like looking at same advertisers with same ad sizes year over year, quality of calls/duration times, similar market sizes, etc. What I can tell you is we see there is continued fragmentation in the ways consumers find local information, however print still has a role. We see stronger print usage in medium and smaller sized markets, the demographics skew toward older individuals, who typically spend more for services than younger generations, and the needs-based service businesses i.e. plumbers, roofers, etc. continue to see strong usage and ROI from the print product. As a small business owner you really need to understand who your target market is and how they are looking for your types of products or services. The problem is as technology continues to evolve, so do the ways consumers search for local businesses. Rather than putting one form of media against another it would better serve the small business owners if we continually educated them from an agnostic point of view and placed their dollars in the optimum places. That might be print, digital, etc. depending on the business.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree Jason with all of this.

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