Yellow pages

The yellow pages are any telephone directory of businesses, organised by category rather than alphabetically by business name, and in which advertising is sold. The directories were originally printed on yellow paper, as opposed to white pages for non-commercial listings. The traditional term "yellow pages" is now also applied to online directories of businesses.

Yellow Pages
2004 Yellow Pages
Categoriesbusiness directory
Year founded1966 (1966)
First issue1966
Final issue2019
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Based inUnited Kingdom

In many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, "Yellow Pages" (or any applicable local translations), as well as the "Walking Fingers" logo first introduced in the 1970s by the Bell System-era AT&T, are registered trademarks, though the owner varies from country to country, usually being held by the main national telephone company (or a subsidiary or spinoff thereof).[1][2] However, in the United States, neither the name nor the logo was registered as trademarks by AT&T, and are freely used by several publishers. This can sometimes be very confusing as YP (AT&T) and yellow pages are similar in nature.


The name and concept of "yellow pages" came about in 1883, when a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming, working on a regular telephone directory ran out of white paper and used yellow paper instead.[3] In 1886, Reuben H. Donnelley created the first official Yellow Pages directory.[4][5]

Today, the expression yellow pages is used globally, in both English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. In the United States, it refers to the category, while in some other countries it is a registered name and therefore a proper noun. The term Yellow Pages is not a registered name within the United States and is freely used by many companies. Telephone directories using the official Internet address "yellowpages.xx" exist in 75 different countries.[6] They are edited by many different phone companies and directory publishers, mostly independent from each other.

In Belgium, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, and Romania, the yellow pages are known as the Golden Pages. In Austria and Germany, the yellow pages are known as Gelbe Seiten, and in Sweden as Gula Sidorna, which in both cases means the yellow pages. In Portugal and Brazil, the yellow pages are known as Páginas Amarelas. In Spain, Chile, Peru, Argentina and other countries in Latin America, the yellow pages are known as páginas amarillas. In France and in francophone Canada, they're known as Pages jaunes. In Italy and Italian Switzerland they are known as Pagine gialle. In Japan, the yellow pages are known as Town Page. In Sri Lanka, the yellow pages are known as the Rainbow Pages, or the silver page. In Australia, it is renamed as Yellow in 2019.

A particular yellow pages is a print directory which provides an alphabetical listing of businesses within a specific geographical area, e.g., the Tampa Bay area, which are segregated under headings for similar types of businesses, e.g., plumbers. Traditionally these directories have been published by the local phone company, but there are numerous independent directory publishers. Some yellow pages publishers focus on a particular demographic, e.g., Christian yellow pages or business pages.

Yellow pages directories are usually published annually, and distributed for free to all residences and businesses within a given coverage area. The majority of listings are plain and in small black text. The yellow pages publishers generate profit by selling advertising space or listings under each heading. Advertising may be sold by a direct sales force or by approved agencies (CMR's). Available advertising space varies among publishers and ranges from bold names up to four color twin page ads ("double trucks").

In the United States, the predominant yellow pages are DEX One's DEX, the AT&T Real Yellow Pages, Yellowbook, and the Verizon Superpages.

Business listings used for publication are obtained by several methods. Local phone companies that publish yellow pages directories rely on their own customer lists and include business listings that are provided by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs). Business owners that utilize phone services other than the local phone company (typically a Bell Company) should make certain that their information has been sent to the publisher for printing in upcoming directories.

Advertising in yellow pages directories requires payment in full prior to printing or may be billed monthly over the life of the contract, which is usually 12 months. Typically, a sales representative will assist the customer in creating their ad design and provides a Proof Copy for review and approval. Advertisers should be aware that many contracts have automatic renewal clauses and require action on the part of the advertiser to end future billing.

Yellow pages print usage is reported to be declining with both advertisers and shoppers increasingly turning to Internet search engines and online directories. According to a study by Knowledge Networks/SRI, in 2007, print yellow pages were referenced 13.4 billion times, while Internet yellow pages references increased to 3.8 billion, up from 2006's 3.3 billion online searches.[7] As a result, most yellow pages publishers have attempted to create online versions of their print directories. These online versions are referred to as IYP or Internet yellow pages. Independent ad agencies or Internet marketing consultants can assist business owners in determining sound opportunities for yellow pages advertising and provide objective information on usage, possession and preferences.

Archived yellow pages and telephone directories are important tools in local historical research, trademark litigation,[8] and genealogy.

The "Walking Fingers" logo was created by Henry Alexander,[9] a well known New England artist. Upon graduation from the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Mr. Alexander began a freelance career as an illustrator and commercial designer. He formed a long association with the New England Telephone Company lasting thirty-one years. In 1962 he designed the "walking fingers" logo and within a year it became the national trademark for their yellow pages.

AT&T, the creator and owner of the most famous three-fingered version of the "Walking Fingers" logo, never applied for a trademark on the logo. While they eventually received a trademark on a different version of the logo, the version with the three fingers was not considered by AT&T to be proprietary and they in fact allowed any telephone directory to use it.[10] Throughout the 1970s, many cities ran television ads showing a disembodied hand "walking" across an open copy of the Yellow Pages, with the slogan "Let Your Fingers Do the Walking."

The Bell System later applied for a trademark on the logo but had their trademark denied on the grounds that it "had become a generic indicator of the yellow pages without regard to any particular source."[10] Shortly thereafter, Bell began using a trademarkable logo with a lightbulb instead of the walking fingers, but returned to the walking fingers two years later.[11]

In some countries, the familiar "walking fingers" logo is not protected as a trademark and may be used by anyone. This logo is used in varying forms by almost every yellow pages publisher; however, there are companies that use it to imitate mainstream publishers. In Belgium, the Republic of Ireland, Israel and the Netherlands the directory, although using the yellow pages logo, is called "Golden Pages".[12][13]

Internet yellow pages

Online business directories are branded as IYP or Internet yellow pages. On a broader scale, they can be classified as vertical directories. There are consumer oriented and business oriented varieties. Providers of IYP offer online advertising.

According to several reports the search term "yellow pages" was in the top 5 highest revenue generator of all search terms in Google's AdWords program in 2010. Experian/Hitwise reported in January 2011 that the search term "yellow pages" was one of the top 50 search terms across all search engines and all search terms(millions of search terms). This made "yellow pages" one of the most searched for things on the Internet in 2011.

The Local Search Association released an online search usage study in June 2011. Their study of US consumers on how they find local businesses. 57% had used an Internet yellow pages in the past year. 58% had used a newspaper and 74% used a print phone book and 76% used a search engine. The Yellow Pages Association said in February 2011 that 75 percent of adults in the United States still used print yellow pages and that for every $1 in investment, businesses returned $15.[14]

In 2009, Burke, a media research organization released a "Local Media Tracking Survey". A couple of highlights of the study found that users of Internet yellow pages reported that 36% of the time they used an IYP they made a purchase (more than 1 out of 3 leads purchased something). It was further reported that a large number of users had no company in mind when they began their search on Internet yellow pages.

It takes many keywords and search terms to cover a small businesses "category" or "heading" for search engines. Internet yellow pages allow a small business to advertise locally and target their audience with single familiar categories with such as "attorney" or "florist" or "plumbing".

It was reported by Borrell and Associates (a media research group) in March 2012 that online directories had a 12.6% share of the $19 billion local online advertising.

IYP offers listings differently from standard search engines. Where search engines return results based on relevancy to the true search term, IYP returns results based on a geographic area.[15]

Studies by independent companies such as Nielson and Comscore have shown that Internet yellow pages had a smaller percentage of total Internet searches, 85% of all Internet searches, occurred on the major search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing.

IYP is classified as a local search directory which provides content with the added ability to refine the search to find the needed service. The search engine prioritizes local businesses in its results rather than the results being dominated by regional or national companies. All services offer paid advertising options which typically offer preferred placement on search results pages.

Environmental concerns

In later years, the yellow pages industry faced scrutiny from environmentalist groups who claim printed yellow pages are a wasteful resource, citing statistics that by 2011 nearly 70% of all Americans rarely or never used printed phone directories.[16] Other studies have found that a majority of consumers continue to use Yellow Pages. Approximately 58% of working U.S. adults said they use phone books at home, work or both, according to a 2013 survey by RingCentral that appeared in USA Today.[17]

The Product Stewardship Institute claims local governments spend $54 million a year to dispose of unwanted phone books and $9 million to recycle them.[18] Phone books use low grade glues and are therefore difficult to recycle, and they often clog recycling machinery. Conversely, publishers note that phone book directories are 100% recyclable and are made using soy-based and non-toxic inks, glues and dyes.[19]

In 2011, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to restrict yellow page distribution to people who opt in,[20] but was being sued in federal court by the Local Search Association on freedom of speech grounds.[21] According to the Sierra Club, 1.6 million phone books were distributed annually in San Francisco, producing 3600 tons of waste, $1 million in disposal costs, and 6180 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.[22] In 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed, and the Mayor signed, an ordinance that repealed the Yellow Pages Distribution Pilot Program (Ordinance 130186).[23]

Also in 2011, Yellow Pages Association and the Association of Directory Publishers started the Web site allowing anyone in the United States to choose not to receive directories. The site remains active in 2018.[14]

The 2009 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Municipal Solid Waste report classified directories as the smallest contributor of paper and paperboard products to the solid waste stream, representing only 0.3% – significantly less than all other paper product categories such as newspapers, magazines and books.[24] In 2010, the EPA stopped measuring directories separately from newspapers, indicating the minor impact of directories on municipal waste.[25]

Yellow Pages publishers reduced paper usage by nearly 60% between 2007–2012, and were projected to increase reduction to more than 60% by the end of 2013, according to the Pulp and Paper Products Council.[26] The EPA's 2011 Municipal Waste report showed that approximately 73% of phone directory, newspaper and mechanical papers were recycled.[27]

Decline of print directories

In September 2017, Yell, the publisher of Yellow Pages in the United Kingdom, announced that the business would be fully digitised from January 2019, ending the publication's 51-year run.[28] The last UK copies were posted out on January 18, 2019.[29]

The Irish publisher of the Golden Pages moved to an online-only model in 2017 after exiting Examinership.[30] The equivalent "Independent Directory" (similar to the UK's Thomson Local directories) produced by Independent News & Media ceased publication in 2009[31].

See also


  1. "Conditions of using our website". Yell Limited (UK). Retrieved 14 October 2012. We (Yell Limited or 'Yell') [...] legally own a wide range of intellectual property rights used in and relating to this website, including [...] the trademarks [...] Yellow Pages [...] and related logos... (Yell Limited is a subsidiary of Hibu, which was spun off from British Telecom.)
  2. "Beware of Fraudulent Participation" (PDF). Yellow Pages Group. Retrieved 14 October 2012. But there's only one true Yellow Pages directory that carries the Yellow Pages brand and Walking Fingers & Design in Canada. Yellow Pages Group is the exclusive owner of these trademarks in the country. (Yellow Pages Group is a spin-off of Bell Canada.)
  3. Clark, Nick (18 May 2011). "R for recovery plan? Yell plots digital future". London: The Independent. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  4. "Yellow Pages – History of the Yellow Pages". 15 June 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  5. "M E D I A * M A T T E R S * odds & ends". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  6. "Official Yellow Pages around the World".
  7. New Research Shows Overall Yellow Pages Usage Growing 17.2 Billion Searches in 2007
  8. Brookman, Adam (2005). Trademark Law: protection, enforcement, and licensing. Aspen Law and Business. pp. 10–34.
  9. "Henry Alexander Obituary". Robert Paul Galleries. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  10. "Bellsouth v. Datanational". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  11. "Bell System Memorial- Bell Logo History". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  12. "D Website". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  14. Boyle, John (23 February 2018). "Answer Man Classic: Who wrote Billy Graham's 'My Answer' column?". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  15. "Local Search and Internet Yellow Pages – A Whole New vocabulary for Small Business Sales | Green Chair Marketing Group". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  16. Smith, Catharine (3 February 2011). "Website Lets You Opt-Out Of Yellow Pages Delivery". The Huffington Post.
  17. "RingCentral In the News: PC Magazine, The Economist and More". RingCentral. 19 April 2013.
  18. "Phone Book Project". Product Stewardship Institute.
  19. "Thrive in Perpetuity: 2012 Sustainability Report". Local Search Association. 23 April 2012.
  20. "San Francisco effectively bans the Yellow Pages".
  21. "Phone Book Industry Takes S.F.'s Yellow Pages Ban to Federal Court". Archived from the original on 12 September 2014.
  22. "Sierra Club's position statement on yellow pages".
  23. "Environment Code – Repealing Yellow Pages Distribution Pilot Program". City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors. 7 August 2013.
  24. "Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2009 Facts and Figures" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2010.
  25. "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Tables and Figures for 2010" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2011.
  26. "Pulp and Paper Products Council".
  27. "Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2011 Facts and Figures" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. May 2013.
  28. "Yellow Pages to stop printing from January 2019". The Guardian. September 2017.

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