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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ENTERPRISE : Specialized Directories Business Is Looking Up : Advertising: Targeted yellow pages offer ethnic, other groups more than just listings in their languages.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you need to find a gay-friendly lawyer, a mechanic who speaks Tagalog or a store that stocks Ginseng chewing gum, most times the traditional phone book isn’t much help.

So a small cadre of L.A. entrepreneurs has carved out a growing niche by providing its communities with specialized yellow pages.

The directory industry is the fifth-largest advertising medium in the country, behind radio, newspapers, magazines and television. But unlike those businesses, which are dominated by Fortune 500 companies, the majority of phone books are put out by small- or medium-sized firms. All that’s needed is a computer and a laser printer. Increasingly, not even a printer is needed, thanks to the growth of the Internet.

“Basically, anyone can start a yellow pages,” said Jill Denman, public relations coordinator for the Yellow Pages Publishers Assn.

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The industry will sell a projected $10.3 billion worth of ads in 1995, up from $2.9 billion in 1980. While there are no exact figures for the Los Angeles area, more than 15 directories are being put out by businesses in Southern California, targeting groups ranging from Armenians to African Americans, women to seniors.

Almost every ethnic group in Los Angeles has at least one phone book targeted to its community; some have many more. The books are handed out at local community centers, restaurants or anywhere else that might draw large numbers of the target group. Some are even branching out to the Internet. The majority of the ads are placed by local businesses.

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Many of these publications serve as an introduction to American life, full of advice on how to obtain immigration papers or apply for citizenship or make long-distance calls.

The city’s Latino community has several phone books to choose from, and the Hispanic Business Assn. operates a business directory that can be accessed by touch-tone telephone. The giants in the local yellow pages field--GTE and Pacific Bell--publish Spanish-language editions. They also print books in Chinese and Korean.

In Koreatown, there are three directories published for Koreans living in Los Angeles who want more than just a listing of doctors, dentists and insurance groups.

The Korean Directory of Southern California’s most popular feature is its Guide to American Life, according to its publishers. The guide contains information about area schools, a sample driver’s license test, a practice citizenship quiz and a listing of local golf courses.

The 25-year-old publication hands out more than 600,000 copies each year throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties and has about 1,000 advertisers. More than 85% of the ads in the book are bought by Korean-owned establishments. The Korea Times and the Korea Central Daily News also publish business directories.

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The Chinese Yellow Pages, based in El Monte, publishes 900,000 copies in 10 editions throughout North America, from Vancouver, Canada, to Houston. The guide, now in its 15th year, aids newcomers and other residents with more than 1,000 pages of listings to help them find businesses that have employees who speak Chinese or stores that sell specialty goods.

“In this area, the Chinese population is growing real fast,” said publisher T.C. Wu. He said the company hands out more than 100,000 directories throughout Southern California.

Virgil Janio of Los Angeles sells ads nationwide for his Filipino yellow pages. He said the book serves not only as a guide for businesses, but as an immigration update and a directory of Filipino embassies and consulates in North America. The book also lists important numbers in the Philippines and gives directions for calling the islands.

His publication, which is marking its 13th anniversary, distributes 40,000 copies throughout Southern California. Another 40,000 books find their way to Hawaii, parts of New York and Las Vegas.

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The specialization of yellow pages goes beyond ethnic groups.

From offices in the Pico-Fairfax district, Jerry Beigel has helped seniors find goods and services with the Southern California Directory of Senior Life. The publication, part of Geigel’s Senior Media Inc., goes to 30,000 seniors in Southern California. He said the book’s main advertisers promote medical care and housing.

Jean Cordova, who once studied to become a nun, said she started the Community Yellow Pages to highlight gay-friendly businesses. She got the idea for the publication after a plumber she hired made rude remarks to her lover.

“You don’t want to pay $250 and then get insulted,” Cordova said, adding that she wanted a publication that would help gays find shops and workers that were sensitive to their needs.

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The 15-year-old publication now reaches 150,000 consumers in Southern California and is the largest gay yellow pages in the country, Cordova said. She said business has grown every year since the phone book’s founding in 1981. Ad sales grew 25% in 1994 and 16% this year, she said.

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Calling Sample

A sampling of local phone books with targeted audiences:

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* Korean Directory of So. Calif.

* Korean Business Directory

* Korean Business Pages

* Chinese Community Yellow Pages

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* Armenian Yellow Pages

* Filipino Yellow Pages

* Filipino Directory Inc.

* Community Yellow Pages (gays)

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* The California Black Pages

* Southern California Directory of Senior Life

* Hispanic Business Directory

* Russian Business Directory

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* Women’s Yellow Pages

* Vietnamese Business Directory

* Arab Business Directory


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