Monday, February 12, 2007

Gem of an Idea? Verizon's Jewel Concert

Not long ago, I wrote a riled up post on the arrival, on my doorstep, of a forklift full of Yellow Books. At the time I noted that we had not yet gotten our dump of Yellow Pages, and I was hoping that Verizon had decided to stop distributing these noxious books in such great volume.

Would that it were so.

Last week, our building was "gifted" with a pile o' Yellow Pages that nobody who lives here wants. I will give them another day or so of rest in the vestibule, then I'll cart them out back with this week's recycle. There they will join all the other Yellow Pages and Yellow Books that meet a similar fate. When I walk around my neighborhood and see all those blue recycle boxes overflowing with Yellow discards, I wish that Verizon and whoever produces the "other" would just eliminate me as the middle-man and just bring the books directly to the recycling center.

I understand the reluctance of the people at Verizon YP to give up on a way of life that has stood them in good stead for decades. And I also understand that it actually is sometimes easier to look things up in the book rather than on the 'Net. And that some people don't have Internet access to begin with. So the YP's and the YB's do fill a need. But since they no longer fill that need for as many people as they used to, they also fill a landfill site with their unwanted tomes.

Verizon could, of course, start pulling back on its VP business - allowing people to opt out or opt in to the directories. I'm sure they fear that this would cost them in advertising revenue, but at the same time it would enable them to assure their advertisers that the people who make a place in their homes for the books actually want them as something more than a doorstop.

They could pour more of their resources into the online version, rather than trying to keep something alive that's buggy-whip dying.

Instead, Verizon yesterday brought in pop star Jewel to give mini-concerts in train and T (subway) stations in Boston. They hired Jewel to promote the YP, in hopes, as The Boston Globe put it, "working to make its product more hip in response to competition on the Internet."

Hip? The Yellow Pages?

If I were in marketing at the YP, I think I would be trying to drive the young folks to the online version, and IM-enabled search. I don't think I would be trying to reach a generation that claims not to read anything that doesn't fit on their Razr screen by touting the joys of curling up with a fat, yellow book.  I mean, this is the generation that lets its thumbs do the walking, not its fingers. (For those too young to recall, the YP's tagline used to be "let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.")

A singer that would appeal to the average Yellow Pages users? Patti Page would be closer to the mark than Jewel.

The marketing point - well, round up the usual suspect: Know thy audience.

In this case, if they want to appeal to the Jewel audience, Verizon should think about changing their product, not adding a spokes-singer.

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