In many countries, the Yellow Pages refers to a directory of telephone numbers for businesses organized by the category of product or service. As the name suggests, they are usually printed on yellow paper.
At least until the anti-trust breakup of the Bell System in the late 20th century, the term "Yellow pages" was a trademark for commercial directories and the commercial portions of the by-commercial-category sections of directories that also include by-name listings; directories were published on behalf of the component Bell companies by the Reuben H. Donnelly publishing company. Then and since, phone companies or their agents sell the right to place advertisements within the same category, next to the basic listings; since the Bell breakup, other companies (sometimes telephone companies who provide local telephone service only in areas not covered by the directories) publish directories that compete with those of local telephone companies for advertising business.
A business telephone number directory named the Yellow Pages was first produced in 1966 by the nationalised General Post Office for the Brighton area, and was rolled out nationwide in 1973. The directory continued to be distributed to all telephone subscribers also when the General Post Office became privatised as British Telecom (BT), and also when the department producing the directory became a subsidiary of BT, named Yell in 2001. Yell was bought by venture capitalists the same year, and continues distributing the directory.
Australia's business directory was first published in its own volume in 1973 as the Yellow Pages. The directory was originally produced by the Postmaster General, and continued to be produced by the government, as the telephone system transferred to Telecom Australia and now Telstra. Today, the Yellow Pages is produced by Sensis , a wholly-owned advertising subsidiary of Telstra.
The Yellow Pages have for many years produced some of Australia's most popular television commercials, often highlighting the perils of not placing an advertisement in the directory on time. The most famous of these immortalised the phrase "Not Happy Jan" in the Australian vernacular.
Yellow pages in other countries
In Germany a directory titled Die Gelbe Seiten is distributed free to each subscriber.
The equivalent directory in Netherlands is titled Gouden Gids; within the district concerned it is distributed free to each telephone subscriber.
In Switzerland the company Swisscom Directories AG produces and distributes directories in several forms including internet-based yellow pages in four languages, including English.
- home page of the Belgian Yellow Pages (French)
- home page of the British Yellow Pages
- home page of the German Yellow Pages (German)
- Swiss internet Yellow Pages
- Swissguide Yellow Pages with additional company information (German, French, Italian, English)
- Polish Yellow Pages