Classifieds Deals Signal Further Convergence of Web and Print

As the newspaper industry convenes today in Vegas for its annual marketing conference, new and expanded relationships are altering the increasingly confusing online newspaper classifieds space. Local news aggregator Topix.net has rolled out its free general merchandise classifieds on Tribune Interactive’s baltimoresun.com, expecting to distribute them across all Tribune sites by May. In addition, ad transaction platform firm AdStar has paired with Web classified ad publisher Kaango in a deal that could help Yahoo compete against Google in print classifieds.

Topix, which counts Tribune among its newspaper publisher investors along with Gannett and McClatchy, introduced its free classifieds feature in June with the intent to distribute user listings on all partner sites, and eventually other sites. The co-branded baltimoresun.com offering “is the first time to actually take that technology and take it to our publisher partner sites and power their listings,” said Topix VP Business Development Mike Markson.

For Tribune Interactive, the money comes with the up-sell potential of the ads. Users can submit listings and photos for free through both the Topix site and baltimoresun.com, but the paper publisher will sell a bundled online and print package to advertisers whose listings will be displayed above the free listings on Topix and Tribune sites, according to Tom Finke, VP of development for Tribune Interactive. The paid option will be sold through Tribune only.

Topix, which also powers locally-based forums for it paper partners, allows users to post free classified listings that — like its local news links — are searchable by location and zip code. Over 100,000 listings in categories such as housing and pets have been submitted, according to Markson.

Tribune and its publisher partners Gannett and McClatchy already have joined forces in the classifieds space by investing in CareerBuilder.com and ShopLocal.com; the three have also aligned with newspaper publishers Belo Corp. and The Washington Post Company to invest in Apartments.com, HomeGain.com and Cars.com.

In addition to their classifieds ad connection, Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune are in the early stages of developing a national display ad network, which will likely be a hot topic at the 2007 Newspaper Association of America Marketing Conference in Las Vegas this week.

Also on the possible gossip agenda: Yahoo’s newly-formed newspaper consortium. The portal is in the process of integrating recruitment classifieds sold through its HotJobs site throughout more than 200 sites published by partners including Lee Enterprises, Cox Enterprises, E. W. Scripps and MediaNews Group.

Scripps and MediaNews Group happens to partner with online classifieds platform and distributor Kaango, which has announced a deal with online ad sales firm AdStar. Through the arrangement, Kaango publisher partners will be able to sell print and Web classifieds online through one transaction. MediaNews Group, a founding member of Yahoo’s consortium, and Tampa Bay Online will be among the first publishers to incorporate the platform on their sites. Kaango already feeds classifieds placed through its site to MediaNews Group sites. Kaango tomorrow is expected to announce Scripps will be using the integrated Web/print platform for its paper sites as well.

AdStar partners using its ad transaction system for print classifieds include Advance Internet, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Sun Times, The Washington Times, and Denver Post.

These new relationships could help MediaNews Group and Scripps partner, Yahoo, compete in the print classifieds space against rival Google, which has been testing a print classifieds distribution platform in conjunction with several paper publishers.

“That’s within the realm of possibility,” said Michael Kranitz, president and CEO of Kaango. “We’re positioning ourselves to be that [Web and print classifieds platform] provider, yes.”

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