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Panpa Bulletin : July 2006
July 2006 PANPA BULLETIN | 11 W hether you have an army of classified sales reps or just a few, don't make the mistake of thinking of classifieds as a single entity any more. There are more businesses here than you can count on your fingers and toes -- and you ought to work hard at offer- ing a broad array of products, not just the print ads. Your classified revenue will grow if you attack each ver- tical separately. What works with a real estate agent is no longer good enough for an auto dealer (or vice versa); the tools an employer needs are radically different from those for private-party ad- vertisers with stuff to sell. Think verticals, sub-verti- cals, and specialty products. And don't let someone else beat you to market with a niche product -- whether it is foreign-language classi- fieds, an automotive tabloid; a glossy homes or apartment guide, or a TV program offer- ing video clips from job ad- vertisers. First, review all of the com- petitors now operating in your market. In each verti- cal. OK -- you're done? Count again. What about the al- ternative weekly? Some are making tons of money with real estate advertising, and/ or recruitment advertising. How about that free-clas- sifieds website that seems to be merely a nuisance, with no apparent revenue or busi- ness model? This week that may be true; next week, it may be sucking the life out of your private-party ads and becoming the local market- place for all sorts of consum- er-to-consumer sales, with a bit of b-to-c thrown in. Or how about Craigslist? In many markets it's very strong in personals, apartment rent- als and merchandise. The best way to beat Craigslist is to be so strong it can't get a foothold -- people just want and need to use your site, rather than a competitor, be- cause your marketplace has every job, house, car or piece of merchandise that they might want. Next, take the classified verticals one at a time. Con- sider especially the sub-ver- ticals, like for rent by owner, small-landlord rentals, and roommates wanted. It's not just real estate agents when it comes to real estate. There's a lot more to it than that. Because this is a short col- umn, I can't go into detail about the products that make up a full-featured suite of classified services, but there are highly profitable exam- ples of each one of these. Some generate six-figure rev- enue (and profit) streams for even small-market newspa- pers. Most don't require ad- ditional staff -- just a new way of thinking. Automotive: Video clips of cars, and from auto deal- ers; configurators that let users customise cars online; affordability and monthly- payment calculators; com- parison shopper tools that let users compare similar cars; used-car vehicle histories; a lease-or-buy? applet; deep and rich inventory from all of your local dealers (franchise and independent), and pri- vate-party advertisers. And, of course, comprehensive search tools. Recruitment: Top jobs; a resume database; job wrap- ping or scraping from em- ployer recruitment sites; vir- tual and site-based job fairs; employer video clips streamed online; an employment televi- sion show; screening tools for employers, or matching tools for employers and job-seek- ers; site-based kiosks with job postings; niche publications or direct-mail products, such as health-care and high-tech recruitment services; target- ed, permission-based e-mail. Again, of course, comprehen- sive search tools. Real estate: Featured homes; virtual tours; video clips; high-count photo lay- outs; create a brochure tools; self-service ad placement for brokers, individual agents and for-sale-by-owner home-sell- ers; a mortgage rate compari- son tool; recent sales; property tax listings and information; a valuation tool; floor-plan information for apartments; pre-approval applications for mortgages; affordability cal- culators; editorial content about landlord-tenant issues. And -- you guessed it -- excel- lent search tools along with a comprehensive database of homes and apartments in your market. Private-party merchandise ads: E-mail and RSS feeds; free ads below a high-price thresh- old; garage/yard sale mapping tools; strong photo-manage- ment tools, with a rate structure that encourages placement of multiple photos; self-service ad placement and renewal tools. And -- oh, never mind, if you haven't caught on yet to the need for high-quality search tools, there's no hope. Even if you're at a small pa- per, each category should have someone who's responsible for managing it. It needn't be a full- time job -- just one individual who's responsible for each ver- tical and finding new ways to make it grow. Finally, one of the questions we're asked all the time: Should we build it or buy it? In 99.9 per- cent of the cases we look at the answer's simple: Buy it. Vendors have experience with products that can make a difference in your revenue picture -- and very few newspapers (if any) have the technical skill needed to not only develop the applications I listed above, but to maintain and grow them. Peter M. Zollman is founding principal of Classifed Intelligence llC, an international consulting group that works with newspapers, dot-coms and vendors to improve classified advertising services. Peter Zollman looks at how to make these integral sources of revenue work for you The many faces of classifeds vendors have experience with products that can make a difference in your revenue picture – and very few newspapers (if any) have the technical skill needed to not only develop the applications but to grow them