To revive classified advertising, the Albuquerque Journal linked its print product to smartphones. The result has been a positive swing of more than $70 per ad.
"The reach and the interaction will be much greater, particularly the interaction," said Joe Leong, vice president/chief revenue officer of the paper. "Instead of just reading the ad, someone's going to pick up the ad, text the number, and all of a sudden they interact with you completely."
While classified advertising has long been in decline at newspapers, Leong said people have become leery of high-volume online sites such as Craig's List and social media. Local papers like the Journal have an opportunity to get classified advertisers back by building trust, he said.
The Journal outsourced its classified to A Marketing Resource, which handles customer service and retention. AMR has its own sales staff and state-of-art technology. Its sister company, SkyBridge Mobile, developed the program for the Journal.
The Journal retained its legal advertising and obituaries. The Journal considers AMR to be a department and a partner rather than a vendor.
Leong said the paper knew that 90 percent of the population has a smartphone, so the classified ads contain text links. The links make the ads interactive by offering a potential customer options such as click-to-call, email, text messaging, a website, pictures and social media links.
"You can check out the website," Leong said. "The online ad is there. You check out their Facebook. So you get more information instantly before you call. And then you can email."
Since May of 2016, the Journal has improved year-over-year revenue per ad from a negative $20 to a gain of more than $50 per ad – a turnaround of more than $70 per ad. The fourth quarter of 2016 generated more than $100,000 in new revenue, and the Journal projects $500,000 in 2017.
To see the Journal's old and new classified page design and how it works with smartphones, go to www.abqjournal.com/megaconference.
Contest judges praised the Journal's commitment to and investment in revitalizing classifieds, as well as its use of "all available resources," such as AMR.
The future includes digital coupons and free private party general merchandise classifieds that would compete directly with Craig's List and similar sites, Leong said.
"We're going to extend texting to other categories, such as text for subscribers," he said. "Text us with service questions. From a newspaper standpoint, we're expanding it to other departments. From an advertising standpoint, we're going to continue to extend the products that individual advertisers can use."
For more information, reach Joe Leong at email@example.com.
The Mega-Innovation Award is sponsored annually by the Inland Press Association, Local Media Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.