Classified advertising — which includes cars, jobs and homes — used to account for 25-50 percent of newspaper revenue. Most of that advertising has migrated from print to national aggregators online, such as CraigsList. If newspapers can recover even a portion of this lost revenue, it could be a game-changer. How’s how we propose to improve classifieds online:
Make it easy to use. In one respect, CraigsList is better than newspaper classifieds because it’s free. But more important, CraigsList is easier to use than any other newspaper classified site and that may be the bigger competitive advantage. Ironically, CraigsList isn’t particularly easy to use, but it’s easier than every other system. That’s why we made our solution easier still.
Make it easy on the eyes. Classifieds need not look like HTML 1.0. Our solution provides easy-to-use templates so any user can create a beautiful, professional-looking ad. See the description page, below.
Make it free. If newspapers are going to compete with CraigsList, and every other free classified site, they need to meet or exceed every feature of every other site. So basic listings must be free.
Make it make money: There are plenty of ways to monetize free classifieds:
- Sell context-sensitive, behaviorally targeted display ads adjacent to free listings, such as the display ads for Pohanka Honda, below.
- Sell ads on to the category-specific search pages, to get the attention of buyers even before they begin their search. See the category-specific search page, below.
- Provide “premium” listings above the free listings in search results, as Google does now.
- Serve up links to “premium” listings at the bottom of any page that provides the details of a free listing. You can see examples beneath the heading “Check out complete listings” on the description page, below.
The examples described above are primarily for commercial customers. Here are some of the upsells for private-party advertisers:
- More photos
- More keywords
- More prominent appearance and position in search results
- Choice of visual “theme” for your description page
- Block links from competing ads from appearing on your description page
- Allow ad to appear active longer
Make it safe: Craigslists shouts “Let the buyer beware!” — which doesn’t give anyone a warm, fuzzy feeling. While newspapers should leverage their reputation as the most trusted medium, even they cannot vouch for ads posted online via their self-service tools. So newspapers must provide a “reputation engine” where users can post their experiences with sellers, both good and bad, as eBay does now. Providing sellers with a means to manage their reputations online is another source of revenue.
Make it the biggest and best marketplace. How? By aggregating CraigsList and every other local classified site, to provide one-stop shopping for every buyer.
Classified homepage, above
Category-specific search page for cars, above
Results page, above
Description page, above