This month marks the start of the demise of the Yellow Pages. In September 2017, the owner, Yell, announced that January 2018 would see the final print cycle of the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages is a telephone directory of businesses, not people, organized by category. The first of the 104 final editions is being distributed in Kingston this January; the final ever edition will be distributed in January 2019 in Brighton. The company is moving to a purely digital model.
Born in the USA, the Yellow Pages came to the UK in 1966 when Lord Thomson of Fleet did a deal with the General Post Office.
The Post Office launched the first Yellow Pages in Brighton (where the tale will finally come to an end).
For many years, the way — the only way — to search for and find a plumber, window cleaner or French polisher in a domestic crisis was to reach for the special shelf on your telephone table. In the Yellow Pages, you could happily look up the telephone numbers of such practitioners in your local area.
During the 1980s, the Yellow Pages became well known for their advertising campaigns, including the famous JR Hartley epic search for a Fly Fishing book.
Now, it’s still going to be possible to “Let your fingers do the walking,” but they’re going to walk all over your keyboard instead. One bit of collateral damage in the digital switchover is the loss of alphabetisation as a competitive activity. Calling your company something like “A1 Plumbing Services” might guarantee you the top listing in the relevant section in the print Yellow Pages. Now, the plumbers are going to have to wrangle search engine optimisation instead.
Yell will print 23 million copies of the final editions, which they hope will become a souvenir. Could happen. Some of the old Kelly’s Directories fetch a fair price these days. Me? I’m going for the Meghan and Harry commemorative plate.