Phone books shrink as digital directories become more common


Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:19 a.m.
Updated Aug. 20, 2013 at 3:20 a.m.

When Ricky Ralph needed info the other day about a restaurant in town, he didn't turn to a smartphone or power up a laptop. In fact, he didn't opt for any electronic means at all.

Instead, he turned to a method he's used for years: his trusted phone book.

"I've never used an online directory," the 53-year-old Victoria musician said. "This is way easier."

But as the world becomes increasingly digital and phone books continue to shrink - AT&T's most recent Victoria distribution included solely business listings and advertises the company's smartphone apps - some say the book is no longer as relevant as it once was.

A December news release issued by YP, the media and advertising company behind the Yellow Pages, said more and more consumers have begun taking to mobile devices when it comes to merchant searches.

Last year brought about 350,000 more local searches per day across the company's local ad network, according to the release, while mobile searches grew by 25 percent.

"Our findings reveal that consumers are relying on smartphones for more than just time-sensitive needs, which is a shift from traditional mobile search," Ken Ray, the company's chief marketing officer, said in the release. "This change in behavior is creating an intersection for YP and the rest of the search and advertising industry to connect consumers and local businesses in new ways."

Shana Wray, who moved to Victoria about a year ago, said she rarely flips open her phone book. When she does, it's usually to find new places in town she hasn't yet discovered.

"I just found out there's a skating rink here," Wray, 24, said as she watched her children bound around a playset at Riverside Park. "It does help with that, but it's the only reason I use them."

For Marilyn Cliffe, a stay-at-home mother of seven, neither directory method is her option of choice. Instead, it's friends and family who supply her information regarding where things are.

"I'll call my sister, and she'll just say, 'Hello, Google it or use a phone book," Cliffe said with a chuckle as she rocked her baby in a nearby carrier. "I rarely use the Internet."

The 25-year-old Victoria resident did say, however, that she's noticed the phone book getting smaller and said the physical book could be a handy tool.

"Sometimes, it's quicker than getting online," she said. "If I had one, I'd probably use it."

Others say they don't want to see the book fall by the wayside.

Wray's mother-in-law, Rhonda Wray, said she appreciates the convenience the physical directories provide. And as she prepares for a move to Victoria, she said having a phone book would provide her one more tool when it comes to learning the ins and outs of her new town.

Meanwhile, Nursery resident Margaret Shelton said it isn't just the numbers that keep her going back to the actual book. Having the physical address at her fingertips helps, too.

Still, she offered up one suggestion.

"They should start including cellphone numbers," said Shelton, 57. "Nobody has a home number anymore."



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