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Business boots the book

21st of July, 2010

  • New research says 76% of SMEs don't pay for advertising in printed directories
  • 73% of SMEs advertise online
  • 47% say advertising in printed directories has become less valuable over the last two years
  • Massive slump in Yell's revenue from print advertising

Small businesses have signalled the end of the printed directory. A Redshift poll of SMEs found printed directories aren't considered a cost-effective means of advertising, with 73% of businesses preferring to market themselves online.

Asked why they didn't advertise in printed directories, 33% of the SMEs cited expense, and 23% said print directories did not offer value for money. Nineteen percent said they knew printed directories wouldn't give a positive return on their investment.

Under a quarter of the poll said they advertise in print because it's what they've always done, though 36% said they can't measure how much revenue results from an advert, and 7% even said that advertising in print directories would generate less income than the cost of the advert.

The research illustrates a dramatic shift away from print to online advertising: 47% of businesses said advertising in printed directories had become less valuable in the last two years, compared to 60% of businesses saying advertising online had become more valuable.

This shift is particularly evident in the Yell Group's Annual Report for 2010: in 2009, printed directory revenues for Yell UK was £504.4 million, but shrank 19% - nearly a £100 million to £409.4 million in 2010. Meanwhile, revenue from the internet for Yell UK grew by 7.1% between 2009 and 2010.

"Yell's eye-watering loss in revenue from print advertising shows paper directories are failing, and their mass production is no longer justified," said Dominic Blackburn of 192.com, which supports the Say No To Phonebooks campaign, calling for an opt-in system for phonebooks to reduce waste.

"Marketing budgets for small business are tighter than ever and companies are looking for the most efficient option, which isn't in print: our own consumer research indicates 40% of households simply don't use printed directories any more with many more using them only once or twice a year. When 75 million phonebooks are delivered to households and businesses annually, resulting in 75,000 tonnes of waste, the question is; what is the phonebook for?"

The Redshift research showed that search engines and company homepages remained the most popular marketing tool. Just under half of the surveyed businesses said they use their own website for advertising, and 28% rely on internet search engines and online directories.


192.com is the UK's most awarded online directory, helping find people, businesses and places for millions of users every month. On 192.com, users can search over 700 million records including free directory enquiries, edited electoral roll information, local business listings, interactive mapping, aerial photography and property reports.

About the Say No To Phonebooks Campaign

'Say No To Phonebooks' calls on the government to establish a centralised opt-in system for phonebooks therefore reducing the environmental impact of producing and delivering unwanted phonebooks. A Downing Street e-petition gathered over 12,000 signatures, the fifth largest ever for an environmental petition of its kind.

For more information contact the 192.com Press Office.