Now Serving More Free Classifieds

Knight Ridder Digital has lifted fees for ads placed in its online classified section for merchandise-category goods in 22 of its 27 online markets. The company is betting that giving away some listings will allow it to make money in other categories.

The merchandise category includes items like appliances, music and sports and fitness gear. Previously, users placing classifieds to sell merchandise over $200 had to pay fees. Other sections, including automobiles, real estate and help wanted, are still paid placements.

The play by the online publisher is not the first of its kind. The Tribune Company began offering free classifieds in six markets in May. The moves come as newspapers’ online sites have struggled under pressure from free listings sites like Craigslist, forcing them to scramble for solutions that allow them to maintain revenue. Knight Ridder Digital is betting that it can make more money by offering some listings for free.

“By creating this rich and robust marketplace driven by free categories, it provides critical mass that drives users to come back when they need to place a fee-based ad,” Tom Mohr, president of Knight Ridder Digital told ClickZ News. “We feel confident that it will create the revenue stream we are looking for.”

Though most advertisers in this category are one-time buyers, Mohr believes offering free classifieds will help it build more revenues in the long run. Classifieds bring traffic to the site; they also establish a relationship that might pay off down the line. Someone who placed an ad to sell merchandise in the past may come back to place a paid ad when they are selling a house or looking to fill a position in their office.

The free ads are only available on 22 of the 27 digital markets including the sites for the Detroit Free Press, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Charlotte Observer.

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