New Study from Classified Intelligence Shows How Local Publishers Compete with Free-ad Craigslist

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Is Craigslist the Goliath to the David of status quo classified ad publishers? Are newspapers down for the count in the classified ad arena? Don't bet on it given the results of a recent year-long study conducted by Classified Intelligence, LLC in 12 local Craigslist markets that show local publishers fighting back with innovative strategies and hard-hitting tactics that turned Craigslist on its ear.

Local publishers that aggressively respond to Craigslist can maintain strong classified advertising products despite the fast growth of the powerful free-advertising Web site, a new study by Classified Intelligence reported.

The study, based on almost 18 months of research, followed classified advertising services in 12 markets in the United States and Canada, beginning when Craigslist launched sites in those markets. The goal was to determine what happens to paid-ad volumes when free-ad Craigslist enters a market.

The 31-page report, "Competing with Craigslist: Local publishers show how," was released today. It's a follow-up to two earlier reports by CI, "Competing with Craig: Strategies and tactics for battling Craigslist and its counterparts," published in 2004, and "Free classifieds: They're all the rage, but where's the money?," published in 2005. Today's report includes 36 charts showing ad volumes in each of the markets studied.

"How can a paid-ad publisher compete with 'free?' That's a question we've been asking, and trying to answer, for the last three years," said Jim Townsend, editorial director of Classified Intelligence. "By carefully tracking Craigslist and its local competitors, and interviewing classified advertising executives in markets where Craigslist launched new sites, we found ways several publishers stayed in the game - while publishers who didn't respond to this new competition lost market share."

The study tracked ad volumes on Craigslist and several local sites, including the leading local newspaper. It found that Craigslist grows rapidly in the merchandise category, which is integral to traditional classified advertising publishers because of the "community" factor it brings to their print editions or online sites. Craigslist grows more slowly in the real estate and recruitment categories, the other two tracked by CI, but still overtakes traditional advertising in some markets.

While Craigslist won listings almost immediately after launch in the 10 English-language markets CI studied, "it was essentially dead on arrival in the French- and Spanish-speaking markets we tracked," Townsend said. Even so, the report estimates, Craigslist will generate $40 million to $50 million in revenue in 2007 from the handful of large markets in which it charges nominal fees for certain ad classifications.

"While we looked at 12 markets, the lessons we learned apply anywhere," Townsend said. "To compete with Craigslist, traditional publishers have to be aggressive, offer services to their advertisers that Craigslist can't match, and build local audiences through a wide range of tactics that we recommend in this report."

The markets covered in the study: Baton Rouge, La.; Greensboro, N.C.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Mobile, Ala.; Montgomery, Ala.; Pensacola, Fla.; Puerto Rico; Quebec City, QC, Savannah, Ga.; Toledo, Ohio, and Victoria, B.C.

The report is available for sale through the company's Web site, ClassifiedIntelligence.com, and was distributed to Classified Intelligence clients as part of the company's continuous advisory service.

Free copies are available for editorial purposes only. Contact Allison Berkowitz or Phyllis Turner at 407-788-2780. To interview Jim Townsend, call 713-550-0699. CI founding principal Peter M. Zollman is also available, through the Orlando office number.

About Classified Intelligence, LLC

Classified Intelligence LLC is a consulting group that works with leading media companies, dot-coms, yellow-page publishers and broadcasters to develop successful classified advertising services. It publishes a continuous advisory service, "Classified Intelligence Report," that focuses on trends, products and companies in the industry. It also provides proprietary and published research about interactive classifieds; offers strategic and tactical workshops and planning services; works with newspapers, broadcasters and YP publishers to develop strong local, regional and niche-market classified advertising services, and delivers training to sales teams. Founded in 1998, it is affiliated with the Advanced Interactive Media Group LLC. For more information, visit ClassifiedIntelligence.com or call (407) 788-2780.

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Allison Berkowitz
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