opt-in for Yellow Pages print directory distribution?

Yellow Pages print directories currently are distributed to all residences in an area unless a resident explicitly opts out of receiving a directory.  Many persons not interested in receiving a print directory probably don’t bother to opt out.   The result is wasted money and wasted natural resources in distributing, re-collecting, and recyling unwanted directories.

An alternative would be to distribute print directories only to residences that explicitly request one (opt-in).  Some persons who might use  a print directory would fail to request one.   But customers who find Yellow Pages very useful probably would be willing to request a free directory.

The requesting process could be used to customize directories for requesters.  Suppose persons interested in receiving a Yellow Pages print directory called a number or went to a website and answered some demographic and behavioral questions ( “How frequently do you use coupons?”, “How often do you go out to eat?”, “Do you like to try new products?”).   A customized directory designed for particular interests and behaviors could then be delivered to requesters.   Information is a key currency in new-media advertising.   Even low-frequency interaction between Yellow Pages’ users and Yellow Pages producers might create a more valuable product.

Opt-in Yellow Pages print directory distribution probably isn’t an attractive business model as long as many small businesses believe that comprehensive distribution of Yellow Pages print directories implies extensive use of Yellow Pages.  More generally, smaller businesses have less incentive to invest the time and skill to analyze advertising-relevant information.  In the U.S. in 2005, businesses with less than a million dollars in annual business receipts spent in total $27 billion on advertising.  However, they had average annual advertising expenditure of only about $1000 per business (small business advertising data).   Successful advertising products for small businesses have to make advertising performance information easy to understand.

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