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The Internet finally kills the Yellow Pages

By Chris Dawson September 10, 2017 - 3:36 pm

Just before I was born, for the first time the Yellow Pages first appeared in a Brighton telephone directory. By 1973 the then General Post Office (GPO) expanded the Yellow Pages throughout the UK. At this time BT didn’t exist, British telecom was spun off from the GPO in 1981.

Now after a print run of 51 years the Yellow Pages is to end with all services moved online to Yell.com. The final print editions will be distributed throughout 2018 with fittingly the very last to be printed being the Brighton edition, where it all started, which will go out in January 2019. That will be the end of an era.

In truth I won’t miss the Yellow Pages, even a Telephone Directory is something I’ve never quite understood the use of as you only get numbers in your local area. For instance having grown up on the Isle of Wight, if I want to send flowers to my mum I want the number for an Isle of Wight florist, not one in Thatcham where I now live. Mind you, I could easily order flowers online these days but I like the local All Seasons Florist in Shanklin, I’ve been using them for close to 40 years!

Today however, rather than using a paper directory I simply type in a Google search when I need a telephone number. Actually I’m more than likely to use a voice search on my mobile as it’s easier. The world has changed and these days, with relatively high charges for Directory Enquiries (and hugely inflated call charges if a service connects you), I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t use the Internet when they need a number. Either you’re at home with a computer or you’ve got your smart phone with you. There are few today who don’t have Internet access and for friends you can just Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, tweet or email them when you need to get in touch. Who needs a phone number anyway?

That bring us back to the Yellow Pages, Yell has transformed into a digital business – helping businesses and consumers be successful online.

“We’re proud of the transformation we’ve made from print to digital. Like many businesses, Yell has found that succeeding in digital demands constant change and innovation. We’re well placed to continue to help local businesses and consumers be successful online, both now and in the future.”
– Richard Hanscott, CEO of Yell

If you’re like me for the past few years as soon as my Yellow Pages (or Thomson Directory) drops through the letterbox it gets shifted unopened straight into the recycling bin. This year you may wish to think again and pop your copy on eBay. There is bound to be at least one nutter who decides to collect all 104 final editions for posterity and will be willing to bid on copies from other areas.

Life has changed over the past five decades. When the Yellow Pages came out people wanted to transact with local businesses because they had no choice. When the Internet came along there was less need for local businesses as nationals opened depots in just about every town in the country and people started to buy goods and services online (I’ve never once in over 25 years visited my Insurance broker although they are lovely on the phone – Crowthorne Insurance Services. Long gone are the days of going to a physical office to buy car insurance!)

The Yellow Pages with their famous “Let your fingers do the walking” slogan and the lovable J.R. Hartley and his fly fishing book (which was fictional but due to the success of the Yellow Pages advert was later written by Michael Russell) are something familiar to just about every person in the UK. I’ll rue their passing with a sad sense of nostalgia and then promptly do a Google search next time I need a phone number.

If I want a copy of Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley then I’ll just buy it on eBay and won’t even need to find the number of a bookshop. Most bookshops, especially those with rare editions, already sell on marketplaces so like Tamebay contributor David Brackin’s recent experience, today eBay would be my first port of call and not the Yellow Pages.

  • olpeculier
    2 years ago

    There is a healthy appetite for Kelly’s directories on eBay and they preceded and ran alongside. I have about 10 from my local area, the oldest been 1939

  • 2 years ago

    For flowers you contacted your local florist who sent them via their interflora system to where ever you wanted

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