How Search Engines and Other Online Media Broke Traditional Media

Man Ripping Phone Book: How Google Killed the Yellow Pages

How the Search Engines beat the Yellow Pages.

The internet revolutionized the local business world.

In 1989 you could place a Yellow Pages advertisement and get targeted calls from prospects. Sure it was expensive, but it didn’t matter. Consumers trusted the Yellow Pages for the information they needed. Business owners paid for what worked.

The Yellow Pages were effective. Local business advertising budgets were well spent in the Yellow Pages. To grow your business, that’s where you had to be. The same can be said for newspaper advertisements. People trusted newspapers in a similar way they trusted the big yellow book.

Sadly, those days have ended. In the last few years, many traditional media companies have failed because businesses stopped advertising with them. Granted, the bad economy didn’t help matters, but that wasn’t the major problem.

Business Model Fails as Consumers Move Online

Consider these recent bankruptcies:

  • Yellow Pages publisher, R.H. Donnelley filed for bankruptcy (May 2009).
  • Yellow Pages publisher, Idearc Media, filed for bankruptcy (Mar 2009).
  • Journal Register Co./Pennsylvania Newspapers filed for bankruptcy (Feb 2009).
  • Denver‟s Rocky Mountain News filed for bankruptcy (Feb 2009).
  • Newspaper publisher Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy (Dec 2008).

What brought down these giant companies?

Business changed forever when consumers moved online. In 2008, comScore™ reported 15.7 billion internet searches for local products and services – up 58% from the previous year. It’s estimated that over 80% of consumers begin their search for local products and services online. That’s up from 0% in 1990.

When consumers began trusting Google and other online media for local products and services, they stopped looking at the Yellow Pages and traditional media. When consumers stopped consulting traditional media, local businesses stopped advertising there. Hence, in a matter of speaking – Google killed the Yellow Pages.

The Local Business Reaction

Do small local businesses get it yet? Some do.

An April 2009 Borrell Associates™ study found that 11% of small and medium businesses are advertising online – up 175% from 2005. It’s definitely higher now. Not only are businesses starting to advertise with Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., but they’re using social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and methods that are more effective (and cheaper) than traditional advertising.

Eleven percent is abysmally low. It shows how out of touch many local businesses are. However, it also represents a huge opportunity for local businesses looking to grow their customer base.

Two Essentials for Local Businesses

If you have a local business, you need two things:

The first thing is a good website. Since local business prospects are now online, it’s absolutely essential to have a solid website. Consumers are looking for your products and services online. You must meet your prospects online to answer questions about your products and services. And your website can’t look like something from 1999.

The second thing you need is good online marketing. You must know how to promote your business online. Forget about the “if you build it they will come” mindset. You could have a $15,000 website with the latest tricked-out technology – but if nobody knows you’re there, it’s a wasted effort.

Get a good website and solid online marketing and you’ll have the start of a growing local business for 2010.