print yellow pages rapidly shrinking

The once lucrative yellow pages print directory business is shrinking quickly in Northern Virginia. Some simple measurements and calculations indicate that the 2010 yellowbook yellow pages listing  and advertising volume has shrunk more than 33% over the past year.

The shrinkage this year seems to have been designed to be less obvious than the shrinkage last year.  The number of yellow pages this year (1062) is only 9% less than the number of yellow pages last year (1162).  This year’s yellowbook lacks the coupon section that took up 28 pages in last year’s directory and also does not have any thick paper advertising pages (last year had two). Making up for that reduction in thickness was an 80% increase in white pages from 260 pages in the 2009 book to 468 pages in the 2010 book.  The net effect of these changes was to make the 2010 yellowbook the same thickness as the 2009 yellowbook.

Changes in page size and print size allowed the yellowbook to retain its thickness.  The page area in the 2010 yellowbook is 15% smaller than in the 2009 yellowbook. Block advertisements, e.g. a two column, quarter page advertisement, were reduced in size proportionally.  However, the print size for a plain listing (business name, address, telephone number) was increased an estimated 36% in the yellow pages and 103% in the white pages.  Ignoring block advertisements and computing equivalent pages as the number of listing that would fit on a 2009 page, then the number of equivalent yellow pages fell 33% from the 2009 book to the 2010 book.  If block advertisement space had the same proportion to plain listing space in 2010 as it did in 2009, then a 33% decline also estimates the reduction in yellow page space including block advertisements.  Comparing the two books indicates that the number and size of block advertisements (relative to page size) has decreased significantly.  Hence over-all listing and advertising volume in the 2010 yellow pages has decreased more than 33% relative to the 2009 volume.

The extent of obfuscation traditionally associated with advertising is second only to that in filings before government regulatory agencies. Nonetheless, trends in the advertising industry point to the growing business success of advertising that emphasizes accountability.

Data: measurements and calculations comparing the 2010 yellowbook to the 2009 yellowbook (Excel version).

COB-42: strength and intelligence are futile

Aggressive young men sometimes think that, with strength and intelligence, they can bludgeon their way through bureaucracy. They fail every time, and over time, they become frail, bitter, pensionless old men. Don’t let this happen to you.  To achieve a secure retirement, you need to learn how to survive in the corporate world.  Start by listening carefully to a helpful Noverian bureaucrat.

Ponder also the sage words of Richard Skinner, lighting designer for the Sackler Gallery’s Falnama exhibition. He declares, “If my work is done properly, it should get no recognition whatsoever.” To survive in the corporate world, you should strive to get as little recognition as possible. A basement office is superior to a top-floor office, because the former tends to be darker and in the opposite direction of most building office traffic. If you don’t have any windows in your office, that’s excellent.  Having a windowless office makes it more difficult for others to catch a glimpse of you.

On those evenings and weekends when you’re not maintaining your position in your office, you should spend some time studying and memorizing the lives and writings of famous corporate leaders.  Recently I’ve been studying the career of Saddam Hussein.  He served as President of Iraq nearly long enough to have received a twenty-five-year service pin!  Saddam developed a highly influential strategy for choosing middle-and-upper-level managers:

Saddam lived in fear of a coup mounted by the Republican Guard. His solution was to create the Special Republican Guard, whose main remit was to protect him against coups particularly from the Republican Guard. You would think that the head of this outfit would be a fearsome figure who would terrify any budding coup plotters. Woods asked other leading figures if this was indeed the case and the answer was a resounding NO! Why? Saddam was well aware of the “who monitors the monitor problem” – what if the head of the Special Guard mounted a coup himself? Saddam’s solution was not original: appoint a relative. Make sure the appointee is a coward so he would not dream of mounting a coup. Just in case he is tougher than you might think, choose someone stupid so he cannot mount a successful coup and is too stupid to recognize someone else’s good ideas for a coup.

If Saddam had managed to get a patent on this business process, the royalties from its huge number of corporate users around the world would have been so large he could have just bought Kuwait instead of invading it.

We are pleased to learn that the European Commission has adopted a five-year plan for adopting a reform of English.  Once again, the U.S. is lagging behind Europe.

Bureaucrats in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry recently repelled an attack by journalists working for a major German magazine.  Information warfare is a crucial concern for forward-looking defense ministries.  Bureaucrats are a country’s first line of defense.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity warns of a possible reduction in college bureaucracies.  A reduction in college bureaucracies will leave students less prepared for life in the workplace.

The Thinking Policeman reviews efforts to reduce the bureaucracy that police officers have to navigate.  These efforts are unlikely to succeed.  A more auspicious approach would be to organize criminals into corporations.  The more criminals that are promoted to middle management, the less crime that will occur.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats. For readers observing the Gregorian calendar, we wish that this coming new year will successfully pass as the past year has. For those readers observing different fiscal calendars, we simply offer our best wishes for time to pass regularly.  As always, nominations of posts to be considered for inclusion in next month’s carnival should be submitted using Form 376: Application for Bureaucratic Recognition.

invented brands and virtual goods

So you’re gonna replace Windows with an Apple?  If you proposed doing that a century ago, you would be directed to a lunatic asylum.  Prior to the late nineteenth century, the names of most goods used conventional representations: the producer’s name, a location, a conventional, generic description of the good (“Lea and Perrins’s Worcestershire Sauce”).  Brand names with much more widely constructed meaning emerged with mass-market advertising late in the nineteenth century.

Kodak was a naming leader.  About 1888, George Eastman created the name Kodak for a camera that he sought to sell to a mass market.  His advertising, users’ experiences of the camera, and users’ communication about the camera generated the popular meaning of Kodak.  Purchasing and owning a Kodak was meant not just to create utility through use of the good, but also to deliver happiness and social status associated with the brand Kodak.  Kodak and similar brands are in part virtual goods.

Virtual goods are now a fast-growing component of online businesses.  Facebook users are spending tens of millions of dollars per year to purchase digital gifts for each other.  In other online worlds participants pay real money for virtual clothes and virtual weapons for their online avatars.  These virtual goods, however, have value only in the specific virtual worlds associated with them.  A Facebook digital birthday cupcake cannot be taken out of Facebook.  Moreover, the fragmentation of participation across online worlds means that many online virtual goods are not mass-market goods.  Online virtual goods, like physical goods before the late nineteenth-century, are well-enmeshed in other, particular representations.

Perhaps a counterpart to the decline of mass-media branding is growth of personalized virtual goods.