Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Unified Classified: Newspapers Join National Classified Ad Service

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Unified Classified: Newspapers Join National Classified Ad Service

Article excerpt

With pirates lifting newspaper classified ads and marketing them to consumers, and telephone companies poised to start electronic classified ad services, newspapers are thinking defense.

One hope comes from Denver, where the Newspaper Association of America is negotiating with a firm that wants to start a national database of newspaper classified ads.

The company, North American ClassiFACTS Inc., plans to take employment, real estate and automotive classified ads from major newspapers and create a database that consumers would call through a toll-free phone number to order Sunday classified ads from around the country--for a fee.

For example, a San Diego accountant who was planning to move to Atlanta could call and ask for job and home listings from the Atlanta newspapers. ClassiFACTS would send him four weeks of Sunday classified ads.

Newspapers would submit their Sunday classified ads to ClassiFACTS and promote the service in their classified sections.

At the recent Association of Newspaper Classified Advertising Managers in Denver, Ray Gaulke, NAA chief marketing officer, urged support for the idea.

"We believe that by using a national database, newspapers will be doing the right thing to preserve their classified advertising," Gaulke said.

Newspapers will protect themselves from having the information used by others and will provide an extra service to readers, he said.

"Newspapers should own that technology and the database, and this will allow them to;" he said.

A market exists for a national employment database, the NAA believes. According to recent NAA research, 7 % of adults at any given time are actively job hunting, and 22% are open to considering new job s. Sixty percent of U.S. adults say newspaper classified ads are their main source of job information. In the average week, 29 million adults read newspaper employment ads; about 10 million become interested in the ads; and over 3.5 million respond to them each week.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 10 million people are either unemployed, looking for a job, or relocated for work.

ClassiFACTS projects that 1.8% of all newspaper recruiting ad respondents would respond, yielding about 23,000 inquiries per week, or about 1.2 million annually, according to NAA reports.

Expectations are that one out of every four callers will buy Job Finder reports, or 291,000 sales a year.

Peter Winter, the NAA vice president of market development who was meeting with ClassiFACTS, refused to comment for this article.

"I'm just wondering when newspapers are going to jerk their heads out of the sand and be a leader for once instead of trying to play catch-up with the competition," said Dean Welch, classified ad director at the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the first paper to sign a contract with ClassiFACTS.

ClassiFACTS needs at least 30 major dailies to make the product viable. It has pitched the idea to the top 85 newspapers and is focusing on the 40 largest markets to get the operation started.

Some papers are taking a "wait and see" attitude toward the project, said Mike Lemke, classified ad manager of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which also has signed on.

Newspapers, however, generally are wary of sharing their classified information with outside parties.

"Because it's a third-party vendor, ClassiFACTS is going to have to continue to reassure individual newspapers that this will be implemented in a fashion that serves newspaper interests," said Lemke.

Mark Stange, classified ad manager for the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., said classified databases were already being filched from newspapers by companies that electronically scan the pages, despite lacking any agreement from the papers.

"They're doing it anyway, so we might as well be the ones doing it and profiting from it," Stange said. …

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