Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

FastFind Autos

Choosing a good reliable vendor to handle the pagination is extremely important. Also, as is the case with any product, the salespeople have to be sold on the product first. If the salespeople are convinced it’s a good product, they’ll be successful.

Last July, Alabama newspapers—Mobile Press-Register, The Huntsville Times and The Birmingham News—implemented a new feature in their Automotive section. FastFindAutos is a reverse feed of the total inventory of participating dealerships. It’s a grid listing that includes all of the pertinent information that one would need to narrow down their auto search. It is a bundle package that includes a print component, which runs every Friday, and an online search component, hosted on the affiliate www.al.com website. The Alabama newspaper group has enjoyed great success with this new program. In Mobile alone, the participating dealerships grew substantially from an initial three in July to 21 by the end of the year.

A few weeks ago, Britt Pickett of the Mobile Press-Register agreed to speak to me about the FastFindAutos program and his paper’s experience with it.

Tell me about FastFindAutos.
FastFindAutos is the result of a reverse feed from a total inventory product that our online affiliate, al.com, hosts. We simply re-packaged their existing inventory products with a print component and created FastFindAutos. The dealer’s inventory is sent to a third-party vendor via a feed every Wednesday. The vendor paginates the section and forwards it to us on Thursday as a graphic that is placed in the newspaper on Friday.

Why did you choose to use FastFind Autos?
The idea was brought to us by our vice president of advertising, Vicki Barrett. Vicki had implemented a similar product at the Biloxi Sun Herald with much success. We took that idea and made it fit our market. The entire project only took about three months to implement. The Mobile Press-Register started first, then The Birmingham News and then The Huntsville Times. All within weeks of each other.

How has your experience been with it?
We’ve been extremely pleased with it. We have 21 different dealers that our participating here, in our market. We’re a medium-sized market, so this represents a significant share of the available market. Dealerships have been extremely fond of it, as well; it gives them the newspaper presence they need while leveraging their online presence on al.com. The listings that appear in the newspaper are just the basic information a potential buyer needs to narrow their search. The next step could be a phone call to the dealership, or to go to the newspaper website to find more detailed information, as well as photos, about the vehicle. The section publishes every Friday, and includes Automotive display ads. Our Friday automotive section runs anywhere from 14 to 16 pages now, where it was running 8 to 10 pages before FastFindAutos. It truly makes our newspaper the go-to product if you’re in the market for a used vehicle. It makes the search real simple, efficient and fast.

How much revenue has it brought in?
Depending on the number of dealers you include, you could make upwards of $20,000 or $30,000 a month. We’ve gradually grown from the initial three dealers, to eight dealers, to 12—we now have 21 different dealers participating in our area.

Any advice for people considering starting something like FastFindAutos?
Choosing a good reliable vendor to handle the pagination is extremely important. Also, as is the case with any product, the salespeople have to be sold on the product first. If the salespeople are convinced it’s a good product, they’ll be successful. Having a good idea, executing it, and good salespeople are certainly keys. Also maintaining what we’ve sold is extremely important, we’ve gradually grown but we’ve only had one dealership to quit since we implemented the program. Most of that can be contributed to having good salespeople, not only selling it initially, but continuing to sell the value to the dealers month after month.