Canpages Isn’t Dead Yet


An uproar in the popular press and blogosphere earlier this year pointed to the seemingly obvious: phone books are dead men walking. But even in the Age of Google, it would appear, there’s still a market for the proverbial doorstop. Two independent U.S. studies confirm that approximately 70 per cent of the population uses print directories regularly to find local businesses. “The Internet is not the be all and end all of local searches,” proclaims Olivier Vincent, president and CEO of Burnaby-based Canpages Inc., the only Canadian publisher to offer serious competition to Montreal-based industry giant Yellow Pages Group Co. When the basement is full of water, he points out, you’re not going to boot up the computer; you probably won’t even find Joe the plumber online. The directory division of Yellow Pages Income Fund (which also publishes Trader classifieds) grossed $1.4 billion in 2008, so obviously somebody thinks print directories are a good idea. But while there’s still a business case for directory publishing – for now, at least – the question remains: what about the 30 per cent of us who transfer unwanted directories directly from doorstep to recycling bin? “We hate waste just like everybody else,” Vincent declares. He points out that directory publishing supports the forest industry, which he says is the sole source of tree planting in B.C. He also notes an audit by Tree Canada that certified Canpages as carbon neutral by virtue of the thousands of trees it plants every year. Vincent included a survey with this year’s distribution giving recipients the choice of opting out in future. As for the alternative – opting in – Vincent is dismissive. “It’s a bad, bad option,” he says. He believes the majority of users have better things to think about than whether it’s time to ask for this year’s edition. “Why punish them?” Vincent asks. “We have a minority punishing a majority. A lot of people who need and want the book won’t get it.”