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ADVERTISERS SEE RED OVER LATE DELIVERY OF PHONE BOOK

Verizon's Erie County directory will be hitting porches about two months later than usual this year, the company says, starting in late October.

But there will be no delay in monthly bills for its ads, which will continue to arrive for the book published a year ago.

Advertisers in the yellow pages section are obligated to continue paying their monthly bill "for the life of the book," said Dana Benton Russell, spokeswoman for Verizon Information Services, the directory publishing unit. Although a new version usually comes out after 12 months, it's not guaranteed.

That's creating static with some advertisers, who complain that Verizon is using an obscure clause in its contract to extend the directory beyond its normal retirement age.

"Now they're just hitting you for the payment," said Salvatore DiNatale, owner of Superior Exteriors on Vulcan Street in Buffalo. His home remodeling company pays $1,600 a month for multiple listings in Verizon's yellow pages.

The competing Talking Phone Book will publish as usual in August, decreasing the power of ads in Verizon's year-old book, he said. "There's a good chance the Verizon book is going to the curb," DiNatale said.

Verizon distributes 579,000 copies of its Erie County "SuperPages" directory, in addition to four smaller community phone books around the county.

The directory usually begins distribution at the end of August. This year, distribution will start in late October, Russell said.

Verizon charges nearly $3,000 a month for a full page, black-and-white ad in the Erie County directory, minus breaks for repeat customers and other discounts, she said.

The delay of the publishing date is part of an effort to spread Verizon's distribution cycle more evenly, Russell said. The company publishes 1,200 directories, totaling 115 million copies annually.

The delay isn't prompting many complaints, she said. Advertisers can update their information in Verizon's online directory without additional cost, she said. And the later publication date will make the directory more timely for Christmas shoppers.

But not all advertisers see it that way. An autumn debut for the new directory isn't optimal timing for DiNatale's business, which installs awnings and sun rooms, he said.

The Talking Phone Book, Verizon's main competition with a distribution of 642,000, plus 80,000 mini directories, isn't sure whether Verizon's delay will affect its business, marketing director Carl Schindler said. The competing book is published by White Directory Publishers in Tonawanda.

The company's strategy is to publish phone listings slightly ahead of the telephone company's directory, Schindler said. White Directory distributes phone books in 54 cities in 11 states.

Verizon Information Services has about 100 salespeople at its site on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, according to the Communications Workers of America.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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