A Short History of The Yellow Pages

By BIG Mike McDaniel

First was the telephone. Once Alexander Graham Bell got it working, it spread like the southern kudzu vine. In less than two years after the first "Watson, come here I need you" conversation, there were enough telephones for a "central office" and someone to connect and disconnect the callers (1878).

The fastest growing of the new Bells was the New Haven Telephone Company (Connecticut) There were enough people "on line" to cause them to publish a little white card with the names of all 50 subscribers. The headings were divided into four sections: residential, professional, miscellaneous and essential service listings. Thus, the first telephone "book".

Early directories only listed names; numbers were not needed because operators made the connections for each caller.

In 1886, when Reuben H. Donnelley established the first classified telephone directory advertising, he helped create an entire industry that we know as the Yellow Pages.

No one knows for sure how those pages turned yellow. They didn't start that way. Legend has it the printer ran out of white paper in 1883 and rather than wait weeks for a new shipment, used yellow.

Then followed research that showed that black type on yellow paper combination was the easiest to read, other than black on white.

For the most part, the Yellow Pages were the exclusive monopoly of the RH Donnelley and the telephone companies.

Then came deregulation and publishers found that selling a second, or third or fourth, book of yellow ads be very profitable.

The "new guys" are usually cheaper. It is estimated there are now over 2,300 independent yellow page type directories produced by 250 publishers in the nation; the largest independents are Yellow Book and TransWestern Publishing.

In Los Angeles County alone, there are 135 phone books from different publishers and in several languages.

The Yellow Pages industry accounts for more than $14 billion in annual advertising sales.

Which book do you buy? More than one? Depends. If you don't go with the phone company's book or the two big independents, look for books with lots of ads. Research shows we use directories loaded with content. The more ads a directory has, the more usage it receives.

For more about Yellow Pages, get my article "15 Tips for Better Yellow Pages Ads" MailTo:15TipsYP@BigIdeasGroup.com

2005 BIG Mike McDaniel, All Rights Reserved
BIG Mike is a Business Consultant and Professional Speaker. His BIG Ideas Group helps business grow with promotions, special reports, mastermind groups and seminars. http://BigIdeasGroup.com

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