The Insanity Of The Physical Phone Book

Annah Stretton
23 Aug , 2017

Every twelve to eighteen months we get two fat volumes delivered to our door – the white and yellow pages directories – and the chances are you won’t open either of them before the next issue arrives.  Once these huge tomes were quite useful, as they were really the only way we could find out someone’s phone number or address – now they are more often used to stand on to get something out of a high cupboard.

In the past the Yellow Pages generated a massive income for its owners, Telecom, but they made the timely decision to sell to a Canadian private equity consortium in 2007 – for $2.2 billion. In 2011 the BNZ and other lenders decided to write off $1 billion of the loan used to finance the purchase, as it became obvious too much had been paid for the failing company. Since then revenue has fallen further, to the stage that in 2014 Yellow posted a loss of $46 million.

We all realise the phone book in its printed form is dead, so why are we still receiving these massive volumes on a regular basis – well, mostly because we have not been told we can opt out.

Yellow, the company, have an obligation to deliver the White Pages to every household in New Zealand – this is a requirement that the government have insisted is part of their contract. (The same condition does not extend to the Yellow Pages, as this is a commercial publication.) But, we can choose to opt out – and this has been taken up by thousands of households, particularly in Auckland where the scheme first started. In 2012, nearly half a million phone books were delivered to Auckland homes – that dropped to 23,000 in 2015. There cannot be a stronger sign that New Zealanders are embracing the digital age.

If you don’t need a physical copy of either of these publications, save a few trees by following this link and opting out –

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