We have had many clients who had relied on Yellow Pages over the years.  That was years ago.  Retail businesses paid hefty amounts for their listings and ads.

Businesses needed listings to connect with their customers.  Yellow pages provided the valuable service of connecting customers to businesses they otherwise might never know.

But those days are gone.

Now when people are looking for goods or services, they take out their phone or look on their computers,.  Yellow Pages was the original pre-internet search engine – before Lycos, Magellan, Excite, Altavista, Yahoo or Google.  THey made the white pages make sense.

In the mid-90s, the internet arrived and slowly but surely the internet took over – it might have seemed quick but it took quite a few years.

It has taken fifteen to twenty years or more for the internet to migrate from slow moving desk tops, to almost immediate hand help devices.  During that time, we lost our patience with Yellow Pages.

And during that time, Yellow Pages forgot they were the connector that helped people find relevant businesses.  They thought they were in the publishing business and they kept on spewing huge piles of books that got dumped on every doorstep they could find.  Soon the Yellow Pages started piling up in lobbies of buildings, tenants not wanting to clutter up offices with the books.

From lifeline to nuisance in less than ten years.  Was this technology change inevitable?

It wasn’t just Yellow Pages.  Telephone directories met a similar fate – accelerated by their failure to include cell phone numbers.  But Yellow Pages could have embraced the new technology and become a search engine, or purchased one as the technology evolved.

Some years ago Yellow Pages started waking up, but by the time they did the horse had left the barn.  The service of searching for business connections had already been taken over by Google, Yahoo, Youtube, Bing and so forth.

Yellow Pages is still around and still trying to reinvent itself as a mediator for the search function.  But one of the strengths of the new digital age is disintermediation where what are seen to be unnecessary intermediates are removed from a process.  Yellow Pages missed its chance.

Yellow Pages is not the first company to misread the marketplace and fail to anticipate technology/taste changes.  There have been many and many will become business school case studies.  Some companies have adapted and changed.

Those who have successfully done so are those that understand what they are providing to their customers and how those customers changing desires can be met.  Regardless of technology.

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