Wanted: Tech-Savvy Young Readers; Newspapers Try to Build Online Advertising

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Lesher, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Newspapers are scrambling to adjust their classified advertising to grab the attention of the 18- to 34-year-olds whom advertisers crave.

Younger consumers especially are turning to the Internet instead of the local paper to find an apartment, new roommates, a used car or dating services.

Papers, which relied on print classifieds for more than 35 percent of their revenue in 2004, are seeing the ads diminish.

Free online competitors such as Craigslist.org have "destroyed" as much as 75 percent of classified ad pricing by forcing down rates, said London-based management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

"Something like 54 to 57 percent of households have broadband high-speed Internet, changing customer behavior. It's diminishing their use of traditional media, draining eyeballs and revenue from newspapers. There's a range of things [customers] are able to do online. It's a much richer experience," said Greg Sterling, analyst for the Kelsey Group, a Princeton, N.J., firm that conducts strategic research and analysis on media options.

Newspapers are rushing to compete, buying online businesses they hope will connect Internet-savvy, newsprint-averse readers to their advertisers, said Rob Runett, director of electronic media communications at the Newspaper Association of America, a trade group in Vienna, Va.

"All major media are trying to understand what ways they can use to address this [interconnectivity], what the competition is doing and what they have to do to compete," Mr. Runett said.

Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., Knight Ridder Inc., the McClatchy Co., Tribune Co. and The Washington Post Co. have formed Classified Ventures LLC of Chicago to take advantage of revenue growth in online automobile, apartment and real estate classifieds.

Tribune, Knight Ridder Digital and Gannett, which co-owned job service CareerBuilder.com, recently purchased ShopLocal.net of Chicago, which allows online research of local store specials. …