Why Traditional Media Still Delivers Value in the Digital Marketplace

There’s an assumption today that no one is using traditional media anymore. In truth the market has become highly fragmented and consumers rely on multiple sources of information to make purchase decisions. Those include both traditional and digital media — this is what the data show.

Consumers often use newspapers, direct mail, paper coupons, radio, TV, magazines and printed yellow pages to inform their purchases. This typically now happens beside online and mobile media and the precise mix varies by industry and demographic segment.

According to Nielsen, traditional media sources are still more trusted by a majority of consumers. That’s hard for many digital marketers to understand but it’s what the data reflect. The market is considerably more complex than it used to be.

Some recent data around print directories exemplifies how traditional media still remains an important piece of the marketing mix. Even with a decline in overall use, the reason for their continued value is twofold: (1) the huge expansion in media channels used has spread the consumer audience very thin, and (2) the clientele that uses print directories are a desirable and high-spending demographic.

Print directories are still used relatively frequently in comparison to other media channels.

The raw numbers are still impressive.  According to LSA’s Local Media Tracking Study performed by Burke there are still almost 5 billion references to print Yellow Pages directories annually.  But it’s the comparison to other media channels that still makes it an effective option.

Consumers rated print Yellow Pages amongst the highest sources when asked what media they consult when looking for a local business, product or service according to an LSA study conducted with over 2,000 consumers and highlighted by Marketing Sherpa (Meclabs) this year.  Print Yellow Pages were rated ahead of digital products such as ratings and reviews, daily deals, social media, online videos, and mobile apps.


Another study by Brandmuscle, surveyed local affiliates that market and sell brand-name products across almost 30 different media options in 2015.  Yellow Pages was in the top 1/3 of media used by those local affiliates at 77% and ahead of media such as paid search, online display, LinkedIn, Coupons, Twitter, Mobile and content marketing.


Both of these charts help illustrate the problem that businesses have in reaching their audience – there are so many places where consumers are spending time.  With audiences spread so thin, the reach of many channels becomes diluted to some degree.  And thus, printed Yellow Pages directories in comparison still deliver a meaningful volume of business.

Print Yellow Pages deliver high quality leads.

Traffic alone isn’t always a reliable metric from which to measure effectiveness.  A study by Google demonstrated there was no real correlation between media usage and influence.  Print Yellow Pages do, however, match high intent, ready-to-buy shoppers with local businesses.  According to Burke data based on surveys of over 8,000 consumers, 71% of print Yellow Pages shoppers contact a business and 84% make or intend to make a purchase.

The demographic of print Yellow Pages users also means they spend more when they shop.  77% have lived in their home for 5 or more years and 54% are college graduates.  Just as one example, the average spend per purchase of print Yellow Pages buyers for General Contractors was $5,734 according to Burke data released in April of 2016.

As a result, for certain business categories, print Yellow Pages remain amongst the top performing advertising media.  One group of businesses that print Yellow Pages performs well in is Home and Auto Emergency Related services that includes businesses such as appliance repair, plumbers, HVAC service providers, auto repair shops and tire dealers.  The below chart reflects data from Thrive Analytics’ 2015 Local Marketing Outlook for this group of businesses and illustrates that print Yellow Pages outperformed digital media marketing strategies such as SEO and social media.


Print Yellow Pages also boosts the performance of digital media.

There’s a third reason print Yellow Pages continue to provide value to advertisers.  A recent study, Neuroscience May Explain Why Magazine Advertising Succeeds, by MediaMax Network reported on evidence that print and digital combined deliver higher key performance indicators such as ad recall, persuasion, brand consideration, purchase intention and actual purchase.

Burke took a look at the boost that print Yellow Pages specifically provided other media.  Although the data is a few years old it is consistent with the MediaMax Network findings.  And as multi-media and cross-media strategies become more important because of the increasingly complex consumer path to purchase, it makes sense to continue to include print Yellow pages and other traditional media in broad marketing strategies.

Local businesses are reporting continued value from print Yellow Pages.

A local TV news story by CBS in San Diego just last month originally sought to prove the irrelevance of print Yellow Pages.  However, when it contacted businesses that advertised in the local phone directory, those businesses fiercely defended the value of their ads.  One business cited the 200 leads that the ad generates monthly.  Another business told the story of a service call at a home where the homeowner had the phone book opened to the page of the business’ ad.

In closing, there’s no question that marketing and advertising growth is in digital media.  However, print Yellow Pages remains a viable and effective medium for many local businesses.  Each business should individually evaluate its suitability and fit as part of a broader marketing strategy, but print Yellow Pages promotes local businesses to a local audience and, as with all forms of marketing, it can provide value and a good return to those who are smart about its use.

2 Responses to “Why Traditional Media Still Delivers Value in the Digital Marketplace”

  1. Wesley,

    Yes, I agree.

    In our business we track our customers and we are still getting customers saying they found us in Yellow Page even if we no longer advertise in the yellow page.

    Most especially the old people who are no knowledgeable with computer.

  2. I also agree Wesley.

    We are a publisher of large print rural phone books and we not only continue to hear from our clients that they are being seen in our directories, but market research also has (in some cases) as much as 79% of the entire population still continues to turn to the paper product.

    Andrew Palmer
    The Phone Book Company
    Manitoba, Canada

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