A Short History of The Yellow Pages
By BIG Mike McDaniel
First was the telephone. Once Alexander Graham
Bell got it working, it spread like the southern
kudzu vine. In less than two years after the first
“Watson, come here I need you” conversation, there
were enough telephones for a “central office” and
someone to connect and disconnect the callers
The fastest growing of the new Bells was the New
Haven Telephone Company (Connecticut) There were
enough people “on line” to cause them to publish
a little white card with the names of all 50 subscribers.
The headings were divided into four sections: residential,
professional, miscellaneous and essential service listings.
Thus, the first telephone “book”.
Early directories only listed names; numbers were
not needed because operators made the connections
for each caller.
In 1886, when Reuben H. Donnelley established the
first classified telephone directory advertising,
he helped create an entire industry that we know
as the Yellow Pages.
No one knows for sure how those pages turned
yellow. They didn’t start that way. Legend has it
the printer ran out of white paper in 1883 and
rather than wait weeks for a new shipment, used
Then followed research that showed that black type
on yellow paper combination was the easiest to
read, other than black on white.
For the most part, the Yellow Pages were the
exclusive monopoly of the RH Donnelley and the
Then came deregulation and publishers found that
selling a second, or third or fourth, book of yellow
ads be very profitable.
The “new guys” are usually cheaper. It is estimated
there are now over 2,300 independent yellow page
type directories produced by 250 publishers in the
nation; the largest independents are Yellow
Book and TransWestern Publishing.
In Los Angeles County alone, there are 135 phone
books from different publishers and in several
The Yellow Pages industry accounts for more than
$14 billion in annual advertising sales.
Which book do you buy? More than one? Depends. If
you don’t go with the phone company’s book or the
two big independents, look for books with lots of
ads. Research shows we use directories loaded with
content. The more ads a directory has, the more
usage it receives.
For more about Yellow Pages, get my article
“15 Tips for Better Yellow Pages Ads”
©2005 BIG Mike McDaniel, All Rights Reserved
BIG Mike is a Business Consultant and Professional
Speaker. His BIG Ideas Group helps business grow
with promotions, special reports, mastermind
groups and seminars. http://BigIdeasGroup.com
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