AT&T Phone Book Dump 2010: Here We Go Again

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This post series is starting to sound like a broken record. As it did about this time in 2007 and 2008, AT&T has once again dumped a huge pile of useless paper and plastic bags in my foyer. If the pattern I observed the last two years continues, two or three of them will be taken upstairs by some of the more elderly residents of my building and the rest will sit there for weeks until someone has the gumption to toss them. Or perhaps, as Lloyd Alter suggested last year, someone takes them out back and builds a shed out of them.

It doesn’t look like anything has changed since last year, when commenters pointed out that the telephone book business remains a hugely profitable and (believe it or not) growing business. Exactly why this is true continues to baffle me… I can’t seem to find any stats about how many people actually use the phone books they’re given, though my unscientific surveys in my peer group show it’s a small enough number that at the very least there should be a more targeted way to distribute them.

Although it may be profitable for AT&T and other phone book distributors to keep selling ads in these tomes, wouldn’t it be far more profitable for AT&T to figure out who actually uses them, sell the ads for a much higher price, and only print them for the people who want them? How hard could that be? As a shareholder in the company (full disclosure, fyi) I’d certainly vote to explore the option.

Given the quality of AT&T’s network, it’s obvious it’s got problems, but staggering along in the dark ages handing out giant books is certainly not a positive sign of much deep thought.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.