Yellow Pages
2004 Yellow Pages for Auckland, New Zealand
ParentVarious (United States), Yell (United Kingdom); Yellow Pages Group (Canada), Directories Philippines Corporation (Philippines)
CategoriesBusiness directory
PublisherVarious (United States), Yell (United Kingdom); Bell Canada (Canada), Directories Philippines Corporation (Philippines)
Founded1886; 138 years ago (1886)
First issue1886
Final issue2019 (United Kingdom)
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Based inVarious

The yellow pages are telephone directories of businesses, organized by category rather than alphabetically by business name, in which advertising is sold. The directories were originally printed on yellow paper, as opposed to white pages for non-commercial listings. The traditional term "yellow pages" is now also applied to online directories of businesses.

In many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, "Yellow Pages" (or any applicable local translations), as well as the "Walking Fingers" logo introduced in the 1970s by the Bell System–era AT&T, are registered trademarks, though the owner varies from country to country, usually being held by the main national telephone company (or a subsidiary or spinoff thereof).[1][2] However, in the United States, neither the name nor the logo was registered as trademarks by AT&T, and they are freely used by several publishers.


The name and concept of "yellow pages" came about in 1883, when a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming, working on a regular telephone directory, ran out of white paper and used yellow paper instead.[3] In 1886, Reuben H. Donnelley created the first official Yellow Pages directory.[4][5]

Today, the expression yellow pages is used globally in both English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. In the United States, it refers to the category, while in some other countries it is a registered name and therefore a proper noun. The term Yellow Pages is not a registered name within the United States and is freely used by many companies. Telephone directories using the Internet domain name "" (where cc is the ccTLD) exist in 75 countries.[6] They are edited by many different phone companies and directory publishers, mostly independently.

A particular yellow pages is a print directory which provides an alphabetical listing of businesses within a specific geographical area (e.g. the Tampa Bay area), which are segregated under headings for similar types of businesses, such as plumbers. Traditionally, these directories have been published by the local phone company, but there are numerous independent directory publishers. Some yellow pages publishers focus on a particular demographic (e.g. Christian yellow pages or business pages).

Yellow pages directories are usually published annually and distributed for free to all residences and businesses within a given coverage area. The majority of listings are plain and in small black text. The yellow-pages publishers profit by selling advertising space or listings under each heading. Advertising may be sold by a direct sales force or by approved agencies (CMR's). Available advertising space varies among publishers and ranges from bold names up to four color twin page ads ("double trucks").

In the United States, the predominant yellow pages are DEX One's DEX, the AT&T Real Yellow Pages, Yellowbook, and the Superpages.

Yellowbook Logo used in the United States

Business listings used for publication are obtained by several methods. Local phone companies that publish yellow pages directories rely on their own customer lists and include business listings that are provided by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs).

Advertising in yellow pages directories requires payment in full prior to printing or may be billed monthly over the life of the contract, which is usually 12 months. Typically, sales representatives help customers to design their ads and provide a proof copy for review and approval.

Yellow pages' print usage is reported to be declining with both advertisers and shoppers increasingly turning to Internet search engines and online directories. According to a study by Knowledge Networks/SRI, in 2007, print yellow pages were referenced 13.4 billion times, while Internet yellow pages references increased to 3.8 billion, up from 2006's 3.3 billion online searches.[7] As a result, most yellow pages publishers have attempted to create online versions of their print directories. These online versions are referred to as IYP or Internet yellow pages. Independent ad agencies or Internet marketing consultants can assist business owners in determining sound opportunities for yellow pages advertising and provide objective information on usage, possession and preferences.

Archived yellow pages and telephone directories are important tools in local historical research and trademark litigation.[8]

Internet yellow pages

Online business directories are branded as IYP or Internet yellow pages. On a broader scale, they can be classified as vertical directories. There are consumer oriented and business oriented varieties. Providers of IYP offer online advertising.

According to several reports, the search term "yellow pages" was among the five highest revenue-generating search terms in Google's AdWords program in 2010. Experian/Hitwise reported in January 2011 that the search term "yellow pages" was one of the top 50 search terms across all search engines and all search terms (millions of search terms). This made "yellow pages" one of the most searched-for things on the Internet in 2011.

The Yellow Pages Association said in February 2011 that 75 percent of adults in the United States still used print yellow pages and that for every $1 in investment, businesses returned $15.[15]

IYP offers listings differently from standard search engines. Where search engines return results based on relevance to the true search term, IYP returns results based on a geographic area.[16]

IYP is classified as a local search directory which provides content with the added ability to refine the search to find the needed service. The search engine prioritizes local businesses in its results rather than the results being dominated by regional or national companies. All services offer paid advertising options which typically offer preferred placement on search results pages.

Environmental concerns

In later years, the yellow pages industry faced scrutiny from environmentalist groups who claim printed yellow pages are a wasteful resource, citing statistics that by 2011 nearly 70% of all Americans rarely or never used printed phone directories.[17] In other results, approximately 58% of working U.S. adults said they used phone books at home, work, or both, according to a 2013 survey by RingCentral that appeared in USA Today.[18]

The Product Stewardship Institute claims local governments spend $54 million a year to dispose of unwanted phone books and $9 million to recycle them.[19] Phone books use low-grade glues and are therefore difficult to recycle, and they often clog recycling machinery.[20] Conversely, publishers note that phone book directories are 100% recyclable and are made using soy-based and non-toxic inks, glues, and dyes.[21]

In 2011, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to restrict yellow page distribution to people who opt in,[22] but was being sued in federal court by the Local Search Association on freedom of speech grounds.[23] According to the Sierra Club, 1.6 million phone books were distributed annually in San Francisco, producing 3,600 tons of waste, $1 million in disposal costs, and 6,180 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.[24] In 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed, and the Mayor signed, an ordinance that repealed the Yellow Pages Distribution Pilot Program (Ordinance 130186).[25]

Also in 2011, the Yellow Pages Association and the Association of Directory Publishers started the Web site allowing anyone in the United States to choose not to receive directories. The site remained active in 2018.[15]

The 2009 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Municipal Solid Waste report classified directories as the smallest contributor of paper and paperboard products to the solid waste stream, representing only 0.3% – significantly less than all other paper product categories such as newspapers, magazines and books.[26] In 2010, the EPA stopped measuring directories separately from newspapers, indicating the minor impact of directories on municipal waste.[27]

Yellow Pages publishers' paper usage declined by nearly 60% between 2007–2012, and were projected to continue declining through 2013, according to the Pulp and Paper Products Council.[28] The EPA's 2011 Municipal Waste report showed that approximately 73% of phone directory, newspaper, and mechanical papers were recycled.[29]

Decline of print directories

In September 2017, Yell, the publisher of Yellow Pages in the United Kingdom, announced that the business would be fully digitised from January 2019, ending the publication's 51-year run.[30] The last UK copies were posted out on 18 January 2019.[31]

The Irish publisher of the Golden Pages moved to an online-only model in 2017 after exiting examinership.[32] The equivalent "Independent Directory" (similar to the UK's Thomson Local directories) produced by Independent News & Media ceased publication in 2009.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Conditions of using our website". Yell Limited (UK). Retrieved 14 October 2012. We (Yell Limited or 'Yell') [...] legally own a wide range of intellectual property rights used in and relating to this website, including [...] the trademarks [...] Yellow Pages [...] and related logos... (Yell Limited is a subsidiary of Hibu, which was spun off from British Telecom.)
  2. ^ "Beware of Fraudulent Participation" (PDF). Yellow Pages Group. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 September 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012. But there's only one true Yellow Pages directory that carries the Yellow Pages brand and Walking Fingers & Design in Canada. Yellow Pages Group is the exclusive owner of these trademarks in the country. (Yellow Pages Group is a spin-off of Bell Canada.)
  3. ^ Clark, Nick (18 May 2011). "R for recovery plan? Yell plots digital future". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  4. ^ "How the Telephone Was Invented". Famous 15 June 2010. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  5. ^ "Media * Matters * odds & ends". Archived from the original on 13 April 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Official Yellow Pages around the World".
  7. ^ "New Research Shows Overall Yellow Pages Usage Growing – 17.2 Billion Searches in 2007".
  8. ^ Brookman, Adam (2005). Trademark Law: protection, enforcement, and licensing. Aspen Law and Business. pp. 10–34.
  9. ^ "Henry Alexander Obituary". Robert Paul Galleries. Retrieved 1 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Bellsouth v. Datanational". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  11. ^ Shore, Sandy (13 December 1998). "Yellow Pages Lighting Up a New Ad Logo, Slogan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  12. ^ "Bell System Memorial- Bell Logo History". Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  13. ^ "D Website". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  14. ^ " - Golden Pages (Yellow Pages) Ireland".
  15. ^ a b Boyle, John (23 February 2018). "Answer Man Classic: Who wrote Billy Graham's 'My Answer' column?". Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  16. ^ "Local Search and Internet Yellow Pages – A Whole New vocabulary for Small Business Sales | Green Chair Marketing Group". Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  17. ^ Smith, Catharine (3 February 2011). "Website Lets You Opt-Out of Yellow Pages Delivery". The Huffington Post.
  18. ^ "RingCentral in the News: PC Magazine, The Economist and More". RingCentral. 19 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Phone Book Project". Product Stewardship Institute.
  20. ^ "How to Recycle Phone Books". Earth911. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Thrive in Perpetuity: 2012 Sustainability Report". Local Search Association. 23 April 2012.
  22. ^ "San Francisco effectively bans the Yellow Pages". Archived from the original on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  23. ^ "Phone Book Industry Takes S.F.'s Yellow Pages Ban to Federal Court". Archived from the original on 12 September 2014.
  24. ^ "Sierra Club's position statement on yellow pages". Archived from the original on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  25. ^ "Environment Code – Repealing Yellow Pages Distribution Pilot Program". City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors. 7 August 2013.
  26. ^ "Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2009 Facts and Figures" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2010.
  27. ^ "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Tables and Figures for 2010" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 2011.
  28. ^ "Pulp and Paper Products Council".
  29. ^ "Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2011 Facts and Figures" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. May 2013.
  30. ^ "Yellow Pages to stop printing from January 2019". The Guardian. September 2017.
  31. ^ "'Sign of the times' as final Yellow Pages are delivered".
  32. ^ "Court agrees scheme which will allow Golden Pages publishers to exit examinership". Irish Examiner. 9 November 2017.
  33. ^ "Independent Directory closure". ilevel Media, Marketing and Development. 11 December 2009.