A couple of great advice pieces were published recently by some smart folks I know. Their ideas definitely pertain to classifieds reinvention, even though they may be speaking about online advertising overall.
1. Five Fatal Flaws that are killing local Internet plays – Dave Chase, SunValleyOnline.com (published on NewsInnovation.com)
This is an outstanding critique of fatal flaws that websites (including those of newspapers) make on the sales side. As he interacts with publishers, he sees the same problem areas over and over, including:
- Too many farmers, not enough hunters. That is, many a newspaper company has a sales staff used to managing a book of business for a long time. These sales people are ignoring 80-90% of potential advertisers in their market, because in the old days newspaper advertising was too expensive for many businesses. Chase says hire more “hunters” whose exclusive job is to go out and find new advertisers for the new, lower-priced ad opportunities now available from the newspaper and its digital properties.
- Shoe-level sales models don’t make as much sense anymore. If you can get some of those 80-90% of businesses to spend with you, they’ll be spending less than the traditional newspaper advertisers have in the past. Chase suggests a low-cost telesales organization rather than a field-based sales organization. (He didn’t mention this, but I’d add that automated self-serve ad placement also is absolutely vital in getting lower-spending new advertisers, and self-serve ad systems are more critical for online classifieds.)
Chase further believes newspaper industry innovators are focusing their business-model discussions too exclusively on ways to lower production costs and new ways to fund journalism. “While those items help, I’m convinced the only path to long-term economic viability is to directly address the revenue problem.”
Read the full article for several more excellent ad strategies.
2. Online ads done right – Alan Jacobson, Brass Tacks Design
This piece by the veteran newspaper and website designer is focused mostly on display or banner advertising on news websites, but there are some good lessons to be applied to classifieds as well. For example, take his idea of avoiding multiple ads on a webpage and devoting each page to a single killer ad that can’t be missed. Apply that, for example, in a page of auto for-sale listing results. When a site user searches for Ford Mustangs, for example, include a contextual display ad for a local Ford dealership, who has outbid all the other dealers for the placement; and make the ad big, bold, and creative.
Another excellent Jacobson tip: “Serve up ads on a contextually sensitive basis, rather than willy-nilly.” Now apply that to classifieds by creating Google AdSense-like blocks of classified text ads (say, for bikes for sale) and serve up that block within the website content related to cycling or recreation.
Jacobson’s main point is that most newspapers have done website advertising so badly that “Is it any wonder that most advertisers still prefer print?” Get smarter about online advertising and online classifieds, then you should start seeing revenues rising on the online side to a level that will better support the news organization.
Tags: dave chase