I couldn't tell you the last time I looked up a name in the hard copy of the Telstra/Sensis White Pages. It sits in our garage, under a box full of plant seeds. If I want to know a number I usually look it up online
or ring the free Australian service 1223. Don't ring 1234, it costs you a bomb.
My mother, however, is in her eighties and just can't get the hang of computers. For her, the phone book is King. With the hard copy she can see who's missing from the new edition; at her age her friends aren't as plentiful as they used to be and if she hasn't heard they've gone into a nursing home or the great beyond, the phone book is a source of intel.
So she was horrified to learn that households no longer automatically receive a free copy of the White Pages on their doorstep every July. Now that most people use either the internet or one of Sensis' directory lines (remember 1223, people!), phone books have passed their use-by date. If you want one, you have to phone Sensis and order one.
So Mum did. She was cheerfully told that the directory she'd receive would be one book rather than two, and in a new, more useful compact form so it didn't take up as much space.
It duly arrived and the reason for its compact size was obvious - the font used is so tiny that even I, who can read perfectly, had trouble focussing on it at first. Mum, recovering at that point from a cataract operation two days earlier, was only able to read it using a magnifying glass and a torch shining onto it. (Why a torch? Oh, those blasted low-wattage energy saver lights we all have to use these days. You can't read anything in her kitchen/living room let alone the phone book.)
Now sit back and think of this. Who doesn't use their computer or a smart phone to look up whitepages.com.au? The likelihood is, seniors like my Mum. They are the prime audience for the hard copy phone book, but Sensis in its wisdom hasn't taken into account failing eyesight, cataracts and the other eye diseases older people are prone to. It has completely misread its main audience.
Or has it? Could it be a more cunning plot? Did the smart marketing people at Sensis, keen to save a buck or two on printing costs, decide on the tiny print, realise oldies couldn't read it and then think, "Oh, wait! That's not a problem at all. They'll just ring 1234 Directory Assistance if they can't read the book and we can charge them a couple of dollars out of them every time they do."
Call me cynical, but I bet the previous para is a pretty close précis of what went on in the Sensis marketing meeting. What do you think?