How Newspapers Can Beat Craig’s List

Robert X. Cringely writes on the PBS website about Craig’s list, and a commenter on his blog makes an asute recommendation to newspapers.

Newspapers take notice. There is a MUCH better way to manage advertising in your newspaper. Start with a web-enabled application that will allow your clients to place their own ads. For classified ads you will need a form entry tool.

For business ads the application can take print ready material in PDF form. Your clients can start by getting a user id and signing onto your ad placement system. They request the ad and pay for it by credit card. (The credit card is part of the client identification process to insure you are you.)

If someone is not Internet savvy, they can call your newspaper and someone can manually key it into the same application for them. Call-in ads should cost more than client placed ads (to cover your labor costs). All clients and advertisements are managed by a simple database application. When the client sells something (like a house or car) they can return to the web application and remove the listing. Each day the newspaper will run a database job that will list all the current and valid advertisements and typeset them automatically.

That takes care of the print half, now the internet part. ALL advertisements (both business and classified) should be indexed by a good search engine. It should be easy to find a car, or whatever. (I want a used Honda or Toyota that costs less than $7000 sorted by mileage.) You get the idea… If you keep the ads cheap and make the web application mind numbingly simple to use, it will attract lots of new business.

Web Applications like this are easy to implement. This is a very well understood application design. It won’t cost a lot to implement. Heck, I’d bet there are a dozen readers who’d be willing start an open source project tomorrow to create such an application. This is a low cost, low risk suggestion to enhance a newspapers ability to raise income. The only reason a paper wouldn’t implement a suggestion like this is their own stubborness. Do you blame Craigslist, eBay, or the Internet for this?