Media – 100 Years of Change

“Radio will replace the newspaper”. “Television will replace the newspaper and radio”. “The internet will replace the newspaper, radio, AND television”.

The advent of every new form of media always brings about predictions of the end of its predecessors. But the truth is, one type of media has never – in a one for one fashion – completely replaced another type of media. We still have the newspaper; we still have radio; we still have television. True, the internet has blurred the lines between mediums, but for the most part people can still pick up a paper, flip on an FM frequency, and tune in to their idiot box.

For the first time in history, however, that is about to change (at least, we think so). We’re going to go out on a limb here and say something that might shock you. Ready? Brace yourselves…

The print Yellow Pages’ days are numbered.

In fact, Brendan King, VendAsta’s CEO, predicts that the beginning of the end for the print Yellow Pages will be 2016.

Now hear us out. We’re not talking about the online Yellow Pages – no, we’re talking about the bulky five hundred pound book that takes up too much space and strains too many muscles. If you don’t believe us, consider the old oil lamp story. Before electricity, people used oil lamps to light the rooms in their homes. Since most families could only afford to have one lamp, however, they had to bring this one lamp with them wherever they went. When electricity finally came along, light was suddenly available in every room at the same time, and those old oil lamps went from store shelves to museum cases.

The oil lamp story illustrates something called space shifting (also known as place shifting). Since we are usually connected to electricity – the internet in this thinly veiled metaphor – via smartphones, laptops, and tablets, there’s really no reason for us to cart one thing around from place to place anymore. Think about the other kinds of shifting that already take place. There’s time shifting – the process where people record and play back radio and TV shows at different times – and even format shifting, where media files are converted into different formats to be consumed in more convenient situations. Space shifting might not be the only reason the print Yellow Pages won’t be around in ten years, but it might very well be the head horseman of the apocalypse.

So will anyone mourn the print Yellow Pages when they’re gone? The short answer is no. Why? Because the void is already being filled by the likes of Google, Yelp, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, etc.. Newspapers are a good example of a print industry that has already seen the writing on the Facebook wall and are trying to survive by going digital. They realize that the value they really offer is the news, not the physical newspaper itself, and so they have lowered costs, produced digital editions, built new digital products, and begun to support new methods of interactive journalism. If the Yellow Pages want to exist in the digital space, they will need to reinvent themselves, too. And not just by tossing their listings online, but by coming up with unique offerings, changing their business model, and building their own digital products.

So what do you think? What will the media landscape look like in five, ten, twenty years? And if it includes the Yellow Pages, what did they have to do to remain relevant?

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