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28.09.2013
After 25 minutes of fruitless searching through outdated posts on genealogy forums, I close the lid of my laptop in frustration. It was either that, or confess to my editor in the eleventh hour that I had art but no story to go with it. So I flipped through the local phone book (after locating it behind a row of cleaning products in a lonely kitchen cabinet) until I reached the B section of the Walla Walla white pages. Now I'm not trying to sound overly dramatic, but this small discovery felt almost like going back in time. Getting back to the present, I hope my misadventures with the phone book will serve as a reminder to all young reporters out there: In the digital age, with more information available online than ever before, we still need to remember the basics. WhitePages is taking the unusual step of buying out its venture capital investors, paying $80 million to buy back shares from Technology Crossover Ventures and Providence Equity. It’s unclear what valuation was placed on WhitePages, which was founded in 1997 by Alex Algard as he was completing a summer internship on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley. WhitePages is a people search directory and database with billions of people records, and Algard says they are trying to kill off the phone book. Business Insider reports today that the 130-person company is on a revenue run rate of $60 million, with Algard saying that the venture investors wanted out of the deal and because of the cheap debt right now they were able to raise the money.
John Cook is GeekWire's co-founder and editor, a veteran reporter and the longest-serving journalist on the Pacific Northwest tech startup beat. Description: USA's most comprehensive phone listing, including both residential and business contacts. AT&T got so many calls from people requesting copies of its residential telephone directory on Wednesday that it overloaded their call center.


Customers waited on hold for an hour or longer when they called 1-800-346-4377, and some calls were even bumped to other call centers where operators didn't know what was going on. The problem was caused, in part, by an influx of callers who saw the number printed in The Plain Dealer on Wednesday. AT&T got permission from the Public Utilties Commission of Ohio in February to stop delivering its Real White Pages to every household in its coverage area. Bauer said some may want to wait to make the call in order to avoid having to wait on hold. He said customers can call for a copy of their directory any time between now and this time next year, when a new version of the directory will be published. Plenty of online material isn't searchable, and far more material isn't digitized at all, but rather resides in dusty filing cabinets and library basements.
To scope out stories and suss out sources, reporters must rely on all of the tools at our disposal, both hi-tech and low. TCV and Providence invested in WhitePages in 2005, pumping $45 million into a company which had never taking venture capital during its first eight years. But AT&T spokesman Chris Bauer said the company has brought in extra staff and should not have the same problems now when people call the same number (1-800-346-4377).
Some communities, including Greater Cleveland, are being affected this summer, while others will see their white pages disappear in the future.
He expects the highest number of calls to be this month, during the time when notifications are being sent out.
I'm right up against deadline on my holiday feature, and trying feverishly to track down contact information for any living relatives of a Walla Walla, Wash.


I'd gotten so comfortable with the assumption that all the information I could possibly want or need was available online that I was on the verge of giving up. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, only a tiny fraction of archival material has ever been read, let alone posted to the internet. Sometimes, when all else fails, the solution might be as simple as remembering to check the phone book. The company began delivering it's Yellow Pages directory as usual at the beginning of this month. All rights reserved (About Us).The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Northeast Ohio Media Group LLC. If Google wasn't returning any relevant results, I reasoned, the information just must not exist.
Google estimates that there are upwards of 129 million books in the world, but only 15 million (about 12 percent) have been digitized. I was reminded of all the times growing up when I'd forget to write down that night's homework assignment, and my parents would bust out the trusty phone book to look up a classmate's last name so I could call them up and ask. Along with it came information on how to order a print copy of the White Pages, including the phone number. Since we lived in a relatively large city and I wasn't in the habit of memorizing the names of my peers' parents, it always had to be someone whose last name was fairly unique or had an unusual spelling.




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