AdAge supports rev2oh classified strategy

adage-logo_011Marketers should deploy a combination of search and display ads to drive sales, in the same way that time has shown that trade promotion and TV buys can work together to boost a brand’s presence — and bottom line — according to Hernan Lopez, president of .Fox Networks and COO of Fox International Channels. “It’s still early days when it comes to online advertising, and I’m convinced the opportunities in display are still largely untapped,” Lopez writes in Advertising Age.

Revenuetwopointzero also plans to combine search results and display ads.

Build a better CraigsList

The current crisis in newspaper revenue is result of the loss of the classified franchise to national aggregators and CraigsList.

This seems difficult to believe if you think that classifieds are little more than people selling stuff to each other. But the classified franchise is much more than that. It includes automotive, recruitment and real estate (cars, jobs and homes), as well as the more familiar private-party advertising. All together these categories used to provide 25-50 percent of all newspaper revenue. Now much of that money is gone, and what little is left is going away.

Most newspaper execs believe they can’t compete with CraigsList because it’s free. But CraigsList has an even bigger advantage — it’s easier to use than any newspaper’s classified site — as are most of the national aggregators such as cars.com, autotrader.com, realtor.com, monster.com, et. al.

Ironically, CraigsList isn’t particularly well-designed or easy to use. It’s merely easier than the alternatives that newspapers have offered.

And therein lies the opportunity: if newspapers hosted classifieds sites that were both free and easier to use than CraigsList, they could reclaim the classified franchise. Why do newspaper classified sites look like this, when they could look like this?

Check out the classifieds at KSL.com, which owns the classified franchise in its market because it’s easier to use than either Craigslist or the local newspaper.

So yes, we can build a better CraigsList — and keep it free — but we must also incorporate a sustainable revenue model, like this example from a group of weekly newspapers outside Hartford, Connecticut.

Note how classifieds (on the left) are married up with display ads (on the right). Granted, it would be better to see the display ads, rather than requiring a click to see them, but this basic model could work: free classified ads adjacent to paid display ads, as long as both free and paid ads were in the same category.

And we must include a social networking component — that’s the glue that keeps CraigsList together. Even eBay has a way to rate sellers as a means of protecting buyers. So we need a way to make buyers feel safer.

Here’s how to build a better Craigslist:
1. Make it easier to use
2. Make it free for the general public
3. Serve up context-sensitive, paid ads along with free classified ads
4. Provide a forum for feedback on sellers to keep ‘em honest.
5. Aggregate from CraigsList and other sources of classified ads, to create the biggest and best marketplace.