Editorial: Focus lost in downsize?

20:59, Aug 22 2012

So we all know a telephone directory can be a weighty tome, don't we?

Well, no actually, we live in South Canterbury. Down this way, it's about the weight of a couple of those magazines on the smoko room table.

Difficult to store near the phone, though, surely?

Again, not so much. It fits pretty easily into a nearby bookcase, on a shelf, or just lying on top of the telephone table.

So pardon me if it's taking a little bit of convincing that we need a smaller phone book, which apparently is what we'll have three months from now. If there's anyone out there who's finding picking up the current one an arduous task, though, please let us know.

The argument from Yellow Pages, in the Herald yesterday, is that downsizing phone books, which has already happened in some parts of the country, is making them more user-friendly. The response that springs most readily to mind is "In what way, exactly?"


Now, having picked up a Christchurch phone book for comparative purposes before writing this, I'm open to the idea that its weight could be a problem for some people, as might storage near the phone, though that one's a bit of a stretch. So if you live in Wellington or, particularly, Auckland, the situation would be similar. Fair enough.

But it's the quote from Yellow Pages communications manager Katherine Cornish yesterday that tells a fuller story.

"Prior to making the changes we ran focus groups and people told us that while they would have liked the font to remain its original size, they were happy to trade the slightly smaller font for a book that was easier to use and store. . ."

It's just an opinion, but that really sounds to me like "public relations spin", minimising the response to a negative change while playing up people's reaction to an apparently positive spin-off of negligible value. So having to use a magnifiying glass to read the phone book wasn't a major problem for people? or am I missing something?

The composition of those focus groups is of interest here. Most such groups cover a range of ages, but with an item like a phone book, those most likely to struggle with a smaller font are the elderly; who are incidentally the least likely to have other means of checking numbers, like a computer, or smartphone, so I hope they were heavily represented in the research. . .

Ultimately it seems a fairly shallow excuse for what has to be a cost-cutting exercise. It would be great if they'd just say so, and at the same time, attach one of those free magnifying glasses to each new directory they distribute.

The Timaru Herald