Yellow Pages has a nice app, but it's still way behind Yelp: Peter Nowak


I couldn’t help but notice all the billboard and bus shelter ads for Yellow Pages that have gone up around town here in Toronto lately. Most of them are quite clever, like the one that says there are plenty of cafes in the city that don’t serve anything in a “grande.”

The one pictured above, however, made me do a double take – enough so that I had to go back and take a proper photo of it. As per the picture, the billboard reads: “If someone told you to get a good lawyer, maybe you should.”

This particular billboard strikes me as the least effective kind of advertising, as in the sort that points out your product’s biggest weakness. Cafes are one thing, but who in their right mind looks up a lawyer in the phone book?

When it comes to something as important – and expensive – as a lawyer, many people turn to their social circles for advice. In the past, this might have meant asking around at a social function if anyone knew a good lawyer, doctor, home contractor and so on.

Now, in the digital age, it’s the sort of thing that Facebook and Twitter are tailor-made for. Case in point: my wife and I recently bought a house and we’re looking for a good real estate lawyer. I put out the plea on Facebook and soon had plenty of recommendations, some of which were overwhelmingly positive. We did indeed take up one of those and now we’re marching toward our closing.

Never, for one second, did it occur to us to check the Yellow Pages.

The ad campaign, however, is all about promoting the Yellow Pages app, so I downloaded it. Truth be told, it’s pretty slick. It’s location-aware, has tons of listings, and you can call many of them with a simple tap.

I searched for “lawyers” and there are indeed many to be found. The app even has a nifty function where you can add such an individual’s particulars to your contact list with one simple tap.

The problem is, it doesn’t do much that other apps – notably Yelp – aren’t already doing quite well. This is particularly important in the case of businesses and services where recommendations from other users, such as lawyers, are key.

The Yellow Pages app does allow for user reviews, but so far it’s a desert wasteland of them – “be the first to write a review” greets you in just about entry.

Montreal-based Yellow Media, the company that owns Yellow Pages, has done a nice job with the app, but it’s probably not going to work. It’s way behind the likes of Yelp. Billboards that highlight this problem aren’t helping.