Video ads like this will become increasingly
common, and represent a largely untapped
If newspaper designer and consultant Alan Jacobson is right, there is still a big opportunity open for newspapers to get in on something new online — and make some money from it — before others beat them to the punch, as has happened so many times before to newspapers on the Internet:
While that may not sound groundbreaking in the age of YouTube, applying personal video to classifieds is not yet something that has taken off. Consider Craigslist, the website network that has probably done more than any other to hurt newspaper classifieds. It has no video strategy (other than the occasional advertiser posting a link to a video), and its executives have expressed no desire to enhance the sites with video features.
It’s similar for more profit-minded classifieds ventures like eBay’s Kijiji (a slicker corporate clone of Craigslist) and classifieds aggregator Oodle. Neither of those services support video as part of the post-an-ad process. But it’s only a matter of time before they do.
Jacobson and fellow classifieds consultant and business partner Janet DeGeorge believe that video classifieds is the “next big thing” that the newspaper industry (still) has a chance of dominating. They’ve partnered in a company called Real People Real Stuff LLC, founded last year, which currently operates three video classifieds websites: RealPeopleRealStuff.com, VideoJobShop.com, and VideoHouseHunters.com.
The company is working with newspapers to use its technology to implement video classifieds programs, with local video ads published on a newspaper’s site as well as the appropriate national site. An example can be seen at UtahShowAndSell.com, a service of the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. (Featured video ads also show up in a widget on the Daily Herald website’s homepage.)
Jacobson says that many newspaper publishers remain slow to change when it comes to classifieds, despite the sector’s well-publicized troubles. But he’s finding a few willing to take the chance on video and recognizing that they need to become the dominant player in their communities before other, larger online competitors come in and grab it for themselves.
When he got into the new business last year, Jacobson thought that people using the service would create their own video ads. That has happened to a degree, and he still believes that the personal digital video revolution will lead to more and more people being comfortable enough to shoot their own video ads. But video ads come from other sources, as well:
- Small video production shops or individual video producers, who will work with small businesses to produce video ads. “These often are the same guys who shoot weddings on the weekends,” Jacobson says.
- Ad companies that produce low-end generic video clips, such as used for job postings. (Here’s an example of this type of video.)
- The newspaper publisher has a video production shop, serving local advertisers.
The latter represents a new business opportunity for newspaper publishers. Private parties are unlikely to pay for video production for many things, but some For Sale By Owner home sellers might take you up on an offer to produce a video tour of their homes for a reasonable fee. Realtors represent a lucrative market for this type of video production business, Jacobson says, since many of them haven’t graduated from the “Ken Burns school” of video production: using a series of still images with music background.
Click the image to go to the video ad
Another opportunity is the local small business looking to make a splash without spending much money. In Provo, this video (which is truly campy) was produced for a novelty store by a 20-year-old using an inexpensive video camera and some (ahem) creativity. Fans of really late-night TV may feel some deja vu; the amateur nature of the video recalls those low-budget commercials airing at 3 a.m. along with a 30-year-old movie.
Newspapers getting into the video classifieds business will want to host videos directly, as well as support videos hosted on sites like YouTube. (Bakotopia.com, a website of the Bakersfield Californian, allows classified advertisers to add a YouTube video to their listings for a $1 fee.) Jacobson warns, however, that YouTube’s license prohibits videos used for commercial purposes, so beware going beyond personal usage of that site.
One other key point about video classifieds is that they also represent interesting content. Indeed, for some types of ads that you may choose to offer free to advertisers, the advantage is in bringing more traffic to your website to monetize in other ways. Looking around Jacobson’s VideoHouseHunters site, I spotted this video classified for a condo for sale in a nudist resort. I’ll bet that will get a lot of curiosity clicks.
Jacobson suggests that video classifieds can be priced according to the type of ad. The Realtor above is more likely to spend money on posting her video ad than the person selling the used truck, who has free options like Craigslist available and doesn’t have the motivation to pay. He also suggests offering video as part of packages that may include multiple features and placements (including offline or print, of course).
Whatever specific approach you take, “get on the bandwagon now,” Jacobson urges. “Newspapers have got to stop playing catch-up” and grab onto important new trends like video classifieds while competition is still slight. Video classifieds are out there, certainly (especially for niches such as dating and real estate), but in the general merchandise categories, no one has hit it big yet. This situation won’t last.