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The new phone books have arrived and been duly discarded

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Two large, orange bags just appeared on my front porch the other day. Each contained several pounds of phone books. There was the Yellow Pages, the White Pages, the Business-to-Business Yellow Pages and the Yellow Pages Supplement. Two complete sets of them.

Without taking them out of the bag, I put them on the curb for recycling.

“Hello, AT&T? It’s Alexander Graham Bell calling and he wants his business model back.”

Seriously, this is just one of at least three sets of phone directories I’ll receive this year. Two other companies produce similar volumes of phone books and surreptitiously drop them at my front door at various times during the year.

It’s been about five years since I’ve even opened a phone book.

In every industry I know, printed directories are disappearing faster than money from the cash-for-clunkers program. For the companies that produce them, printed phone books are like crack; they’re addicted to the revenue, but it’s not doing anyone any good. The effort to keep phone books alive is distracting their publishers from the need to find a more useful business. And you don’t have to be a tree-hugger to cringe at the tremendous waste in resources these unwanted products represent.

OK, I confess that having a residential phone book is a small comfort (though I still don’t remember the last time I used one). But if you’re running a business I wouldn’t spend much on Yellow Pages advertising. No matter how small or local the business might be, your resources would be better spent building an affordable little website and making sure it’s listed on every free online directory you can find.

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About the Author:

Bob Rosenbaum is founder and principal of The MarketFarm, a content-oriented strategic communications firm.

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