Dial I for internet: Phone-book companies are heading for a long, slow decline

When the drains are blocked, the air-conditioning has given up or your life depends on someone delivering a take-away, you pick up the phone book. In most countries the companies that produce them have big chunks of the advertising market and enjoy some of the fattest margins in the media business.But now, because of the internet, investors have taken fright. Shares in Yell, which owns phone books in Britain, America and Spain, fell by 26% on May 20th when it announced its results. That was partly due to concerns about slowing economic growth and the company’s debt load, but also because of worries about its long-term future. The firm’s shares have now fallen by 75% in the past 13 months.

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