In the midst this great media shift to online and interactive, my company continues to distribute close to 10 million printed catalogs of homes for sale and apartments for rent every month.

http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/yellowpages.jpgoutWe get two tangible points of confirmation for continuing with our print distribution. First, the printed copies get picked up. More than 90% of the copies we put into racks each month are getting used by consumers. Second, the printed copies drive business activity for our advertisers at a higher rate per instance of use than our online product.

As a lead-generating business, our focus is on creating the most cost-effective ways of creating leads for our customers. Print distribution is still an effective and essential channel to driving a volume of leads.

One of my regular reads, PurpleMotes, had a post today about a pile of yellow pages directories that was dropped off at their apartment community recently.

From PurpleMotes:

The traditional mass distribution of yellow pages print directories isn’t effective where I live. In my 148-unit apartment complex, stacks of new yellowbooks were recently placed outside entryways during the day on Thursday. At about 7pm that evening, 146 yellowbooks remained. The next evening, 139 remained. The following Tuesday morning, 134 books remained. Later that day, apartment staff recycled those remaining books. Hence apartment residents picked up only about 10% of the yellow pages directories placed in entryways.

What’s different about the printed catalogs that we distribute at NCI and the traditional yellow pages?

Freshness: We distribute a new book each month. While it’s not as timely as the Internet (an understatement), the printed catalog changes and gives a quick overview of the market.

Convenience: The printed catalog is designed to be convenient for someone who is out and about looking for a home or apartment. It’s small, reasonably well-organized and easy to read.

Purpose: The purpose of the printed catalog is very similar to catalogs that you get in the mail. The merchant isn’t showing you all of their inventory, just that selection that is relevant because of season, style or price. The proposition is similar for the real estate agent or property management company that is using our printed products to make an impression on consumers.

These three characteristics of our print product are vastly different from the printed yellow pages, which is designed to be a reference directory for products and services in your geographic area.

These characteristics are a big reason why consumers continue to use our local printed catalogs, despite the ubiquity of the information online and on their mobile device. Then catalog is one more tool in a discursive search the occupies multiple dimensions of time and space.

That’s why we continue to invest in our physical distribution, even as we have built out our online distribution. Because we know that it is an effective source that consumers continue to use.