Online Classifieds: A Fresh Look, Part 2

Last week, I began to address online classifieds, a growing online industry that’s worthy of attention — and not just from consumers. If you’re still wondering what’s in online classified advertising for professional media buyers, you need only consider one factor: the audience.

The value is in the critical mass that didn’t exist before, say Peter M. Zollman and Jim Townsend, founding principal and editorial director, respectively, of Classified Intelligence (CI), a consulting and research group for the classified ad industry (disclosure: I do some reporting for the firm).

“Sites offering classified advertising in all of the verticals, draw large audiences and readers that aren’t available through print,” Townsend says. “They have become a place where media buyers can go and know their target consumers congregate there.”

Indeed they have. Just consider of the types of sites that now offer online classified listings: major newspapers like the “New York Times” and “Washington Post”; transaction-based or marketplace sites like eBay and craigslist; and third-party “destination” sites that aggregate classified listings from such sources. All attract millions of consumers actively searching for real estate, autos, employment, travel bargains, and merchandise on the Web, which makes them perfectly primed to receive related advertising.

The type of advertising media buyers will be most interested in from these sorts of sites ranges from the standard banner units to more unique placement options, whether ready-made or custom-built. Exactly what’s available depends on your product or service.

Classified Listings

According to CI, the recruitment vertical currently boasts some of the most diverse opportunities. In addition to offering countless online tools allowing recruiters to post resumes, distribute job listings, and search databases of job seekers, many online newspapers are featuring what’s become known in the industry as a Top Jobs placement.

Recruiters pay extra to have their job listings “floated” on other site pages, such as the home page, job section landing page, and, in some cases, affiliated content sites. The more sophisticated publications tie this inventory to editorial content in the manner of contextual advertising.

Such placement options allow recruiters to get their ads in front of passive job seekers. The concept is being adopted in relation to real estate and auto verticals, too. For those advertisers, for whom posting classified listings related to their product or service is appropriate, there’s a whole world of online opportunities well beyond the classifieds section of a newspaper site.

Banner Ads

Those who prefer banner placements — say, a software company or professional training firm interested in promoting its services — can benefit from listings as well, again by contextual association. “If you’re looking for a job as a Web designer, you may see context ads for companies that offer training in certain aspects of Web design,” Zollman says.

Similar opportunities exist for mortgage companies and home renovation retailers wishing to target an audience of real estate searchers. “Banner and button ads adjacent to the listings are growing in popularity.”

Destination Sites

As mentioned last week, some newspaper conglomerates have launched additional properties through which to distribute their classified listings. More commonly, newspaper sites partner with third-party properties, sometimes called destination sites, to achieve the same effect. Many of the sites you’ll need to know relating to this trend belong to Classified Ventures. The company has strategic partnerships with major newspaper publishing companies, including Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., the McClatchy Company, Tribune Company, and the Washington Post Company.

Its properties encompass Cars.com, Apartments.com, Homescape, RentalHomesPlus, and HomeGain. “These are great examples of sites with national footprints that also have local newspaper ties,” says Townsend. Another well-known player in this field is top recruitment site CareerBuilder.com, which is affiliated with Gannett Co., Knight Ridder, and Tribune Company. It currently has a presence in over 200 local markets.

Like their newspaper affiliates, these destination sites offer standard banner advertising supplemented with targeting capabilities, such as geotargeting on real estate sites and category-, make-, and model-targeting on auto sites. Whether a buyer is interested in reaching a national audience or zeroing in on a specific region, these properties are rife with opportunities.

Looking to the Future

Though the online classified industry is flourishing, there are advances still to be made. Some sites offering classified listings and other ad placements have only begun experimenting with behavioral targeting technologies. But we’ve come a long way from weekend listings at the back of your local paper. Today’s classified advertising has a fresh look. Isn’t it time to give it a look yourself?

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