I have yet to hear of a newspaper improving its revenue or audience growth by offering free classified ads.
The San Diego Union-Tribune tried it int 2005.
Now the U-T is further trimming staff.
“Not since the merger of the Union and Tribune over 15 years ago have we faced such wrenching changes,” he (CEO Gene Bell) wrote. “At the same time, never in our history have we faced revenue losses as dramatic as those of the last 12 months.”
Observation: The U-T offered free classifieds and that did not stem the tide of revenue loses.
I’m not trying to draw a direct connection, just saying … it didn’t help.
The only time I’ve ever heard of an MSM newspaper offering free classifieds and using it to win market share was in Arkansas when Walter Hussman took the Democrat from second-tier player into only game in town.
There might be a very scary lesson about the inability of a market leader’s inability to use disruptive strategy to beat other disruptive players.
What worked for Hussman to beat a bigger paper, may not work for a market leader like the leading metro in town to beat Craigslist and other free-classified sites.
If that’s true, then sustaining innovations (which most newspapers have been pursuing in the recruitment ad space for a decade) may be the only way to go.
Just thinking out loud.