Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

One-Upping Craigslist

For years the mentality at conferences, and even here, has been “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em,” advising you to stop looking at them as a competitor and start using them to upsell your services to advertisers. But, I’m daring you to challenge that.

It’s no secret that newspaper classified sales have taken huge hits since the creation and popularization of Craigslist, but it’s time to reclaim your territory! One-up Craigslist and learn to beat them at their own game. For years the mentality at conferences, and even here, has been “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em,” advising you to stop looking at them as a competitor and start using them to upsell your services to advertisers. But, I’m daring you to challenge that. While uploading advertising to Craigslist for your clients may bring in some of the lost revenue, it does nothing to rebuild the confidence in your product for your readers or advertisers, and it takes a large chunk of time per listing. I think it’s time classified advertising defies the previously perceived inevitable and brings large amounts of listings back to the newspaper.

Instead of rolling over to Craigslist and letting them stomp all over your turf, fight back! Start prowling around the site to find listings from your area. Once you find the listings, take some time to go through and contact the posters. I know, this may seem overly time consuming, but the pay-off will be worth it.

When you’ve connected with the classified listers, incentivize them to leave Craigslist, or at least supplement their Craigslist post. If they leave Craigslist completely, offer them free online advertising for the duration of the sale. In addition to the free online ads, give them free weekday advertising for a month. Allow them to upgrade their ad by adding photos, color or extra text in print, or online with audio, video or special placement. There is no need to only allow corporate advertisers to advertise in the premium spots. Traditional liner ads can be seen on the side, as a banner or simply with a call box around it making it more noticeable.

If the community advertiser is intrigued by your interest in listing their item, but still wants to stay on Craigslist, allow them free advertising on your online classified site. This way you’re building a relationship with the advertiser, while you’re also creating more interest on your site. Also offer them upsells, but don’t hold your breath that they’ll actually bite on them. A few may, but in general it’s probably not in their mindset. But don’t let that stop you from offering it. Push it subtly, but don’t annoy them. That will defeat your purpose for gathering their advertising in the first place — creating a quality, long-lasting working relationship with them.

Offering free advertising seems like a risky move. But, the payoff will come! Look at the success Craigslist has had by offering all free advertising! And increasing the density of your classified advertising section both online and in print will attract more readers to your section incentivizing more advertisers. Remember, the market will never be what it once was, but you can get back some of your share by beating the competition at their own game.