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Switchboard

Making directory assistance wired.

Although the Internet has made searching for information easy, those enormous phone books keep getting thrown on our doorsteps every year. Why isn’t someone putting this information online, you might ask? Someone has. Boston-based Switchboard.com put the white and Yellow Pages online, and threw in some other handy treats, like maps and directions. CEO Douglas Greenlaw chats about a paperless future, directory assistance and, of course, plumbers.

Why was the decision made to start such a company?

Switchboard was founded in 1995 and was the first company to deliver a free, national White Pages directory on the Internet in February 1996 with the launch of our flagship Web site Switchboard.com.

Prior to this, most people at home and in the workplace had little or no access to print directories covering more than their immediate local area. Soon after, we created a national Yellow Pages online directory. Today, Switchboard receives over 100 million page views and is used by more than 5 million consumers each month.

Do you think that online directories will eventually replace paper-based directories, or do they fill different needs?

Factors such as data accuracy and ease of searching go beyond print phone books, driving more and more people to do their Yellow Pages searches online. There is definitely a noticeable trend in the growing number of online Yellow Pages directory users from that of print Yellow Pages. However, there is still an audience for print Yellow Pages and we do not expect our society to become “paperless” in the near future, but it is just a matter of time.

What kinds of online promotion can you offer to merchants that regular directories can’t?

Switchboard.com promotes direct links to business Web sites, e-mail addresses, and maps and directions directly in the Yellow Pages advertisement. Search results can also easily be sorted by distance from your location rather than alphabetically in just seconds.

How would a user be able to search your Yellow Pages more effectively than a print version that might have the same information?

The platform allows users to find stores and services using high tech search methods so they can easily locate businesses by the products, services, and brands they offer.

For example, the directory engine allows a user to quickly find “Plumbers within 10 miles of my home who offer 24 hour emergency service and specialize in Maytag dishwasher repair.” This makes it easier for merchants to connect with customers looking for businesses like theirs.

How have you been able to weather the current economic downturn?

The Switchboard technology is a fundamental component of the Internet, and the Internet is more popular than ever. Over 60 percent of the U.S. population is online. It took the cable TV industry over 30 years to get that kind of penetration. Switchboard is positioned exceptionally well to benefit from these expanding market conditions.

What do you like best about what the company does?

We’ve managed to remain an industry leader in the Internet directory assistance market and offer a platform that is the most feature-rich and scalable in the industry.

Our technology has been recognized both by alliance partners and competitors and it’s extremely rewarding to be a part of a team of dedicated professionals. I am very proud of Switchboard’s developments and look forward each day to being part of our company’s future.

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