On Phone Books and Mobile Phones

By | February 6, 2011

I had a strange experience last night. Because of the weather, my friend and I got to dinner late and missed the 7 PM movie. So we went to Starbucks to caffeinate in preparation for the later show. But what time was that?

My knee-jerk reaction was to go to statecollege.com/movies and check the times, but until they start building Internet kiosks into walls, I was out of luck. I work from a home office and have a laptop attached to me like an extra appendage, but I spend relatively little time out of the office so my cellphone doesn’t have a data plan. My friend doesn’t have a data plan either. I felt naked. For a split second, I had absolutely no idea what to do.

“Does anyone have a smartphone?” I joked.

The kid behind the counter looked up at me with this blank expression that said, Of course I do, but don’t ask me. I just work here.

“How about a spare laptop?” my friend deadpanned.

The kid didn’t even crack a smile.

“Can I have a phone book please?” I asked.

I was handed a pile of yellow paper and glue and confidently reverted to an ancient time. I looked up “movies” but found nothing. It did take me turning five or six pages to discover that, though, so now I was annoyed. I tried the white pages. Still nothing. Mmmm. Now I was even more annoyed.

“If I’d Googled this, I’d be done by now,” I snarked.

Then I remembered. Movie listings are under “theaters,” a term nobody uses to refer to movies anymore. There would probably be more pages to turn under “t” than “m” for movies, so I hesitated. Philosophically, I was opposed to it. It was 15 seconds I didn’t want to spend.

Then I remembered they put the business listings in a separate section in the back of white pages that would probably be faster.

There it was — time to dial.

The absurdity of entire situation really struck me. It had been so long since I’d used a phone book that I’d forgotten how.

Although many of us like to talk about how we prefer print for this, how print is indispensable for that, we forget that entire generations after us simply use mobile. Print may be better for some things, but they’ll never know it. You don’t know the value of the thing you’ve never really used.

Last week, I began getting the streaming blog posts from the Mobile Insider Summit. There were some interesting numbers and the print industry needs to take notice:

  • Cisco’s mobile traffic report doubled recently and is on track for 92% CAGR over the next four years. [1]
  • Google has seen a quadrupling — four times the number — of mobile searches. [2]
  • eBay is selling three to four Ferraris per month via mobile phone. Mobile shopping isn’t just for low-end items anymore. [3]
  • Mobile page views for Career Builder went from 800,000 to 1.8 million in 2010. [4]

It’s no wonder that 25% of marketers intend to increase spending on mobile marketing in 2011. [5]

The printing industry needs to pay attention. Imagine being a direct mail house and saying, “We can do it all, but we can’t mail to ZIP codes in Florida.” You’d be laughed out of business, right? Print still has — and will always have — a place in marketing, but we now have entire segments of consumers who function in a mobile world. How are you going to help your customers with that?

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2 thoughts on “On Phone Books and Mobile Phones

  1. Bill Strobridge

    Don’t know that i really have an answer that is noteworthy. The only thing that comes to mind is using QR Codes on print material to make it mobile friendly and interactive, or delving into offering mobile marketing as part of my mix to the client. I’d be interested to know what you think Heidi and others.

  2. Diane Dragoff

    Great story!!!!

    We’ve got to have the internet part of the phone and texting; internet to look things up and texting for those that don’t talk on the phone. This is primarily younger people who spend every waking moment telling their friends what they are doing via text messages. I often imagine their thumbs twitch in their dreams. I wonder if they will remain arthritis free longer or if their thumb joints will degenerate from overuse. So not only is print mostly in dis-use, voice transmissions are going that way too.

    The thing to do is to provide less information by print, but print something that directs the spectator (receipient or even passerby on the street) to take notice and react. The fact that all smartphones come with installed QR readers now says that the business that has QR codes as attention grabbers will get participants/consumers.

    I’ve been advising everyone I meet to immediately get a QR code on their business card. It might be a gimmick now, but can provide some useable information. Its different from the pURLS on postcards that came to me years ago which I piled into inches high piles. TThose were just glorified sales calls, the QR codes provide information which will be useful. Just imagine if you had a business card from the theater with a QR code. One shot of the code would get you movie times in real time.

    Interestingly enough, in a great advertisement for AT&T’s QR code management, they show a phone book with a larage yellow pages display ad with a QR code in the ad… I was surprised to see the phone book in the ad, perhaps AT&T is going to take another stab at a yellow pages book?

    Here’s the link: http://youratt.com/nextdimension?GUID=76471F41-C1A8-4EC2-9D19-2BD975291369

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