Flash for newspapers: Ads don’t require dead trees, and neither do you


Local newspaper ad revenue is shrinking dramatically. Ask any sales executive at any old style paper and they’ll confirm it. If they’re a friend, I suggest you have a hanky, a shoulder, and maybe a martini ready for them before you ask. It’s a brutal topic.

How long will it take for online ads to completely dry up the print ad revenue at old-style papers? And how much—and how much longer—will people and businesses pay to have printed pieces of paper delivered?

Thanks to Web search in general, free classified-ad granddaddy craigslist.org specifically, and uber-sites such as cars.com for rides, realestate.com for roofs, monster.com for raises, and eBay for the rest of life’s detritus, spending 50-cents at Kwik-E-Mart for a folded sheaf of dried cellulose, hoping to find what you need or want sounds, well, dumb.

Expensive display ads will continue to evaporate as businesses cut costs and reallocate ad dollars to the net to remain competitive.

Paula Tompkins, CEO and Founder of ChannelNet, a leader in marketing and selling cars through interactive technology, predicts personalized web marketing will become even more aggressive as savvy shoppers use the Internet to convince brick-and-mortar ride sellers to finally do what they’ve always purported to do: Deal.

Tompkins recently addressed car sellers in Australia, offering her take on the advantages of auto dealers providing a “highly personalized and branded web experience” instead of spending their precious ad budgets on old media:

“The cost of a typical newspaper ad in Australia is astronomical and has limited impact when compared to online marketing. A high-quality website can draw as many as five times the sales leads at a much lower cost. . . . Eighty-nine percent of automotive shoppers go online to conduct research before setting foot in a showroom. The implications this trend offers to drive both sales volume and profit are extraordinary.”

Online competitors for tight ad budgets are going to eat more of newspapers’ personal- and small-business ad “lunch” every day.

eBay has recently bought a craigslist-looky-likey competitor called Gumtree.com. Like craigslist, it’s free. For most folks it doesn’t get much better than that.

Don’t know nothin’ ’bout no online advertising? vFlyer.com helps individuals and small-to-medium-sized businesses blast the electronic world with ads.

Newcomer vlingo.com promises they’ll soon deliver on the simply elegant insight MIT media guru Nicholas Negroponte had over 10 years ago: people don’t want to dial, they want to talk. Vlingo’s software lets you speak to your cellphone about what you’re after. Sushi? It’s right around the corner. Here’s a rating from other customers, here’s a map, and here’s the phone number in case you want to call ahead.

iqZone.com allows you to take a picture and post an ad, all from your cell phone. Add in proximity search, LoMo for short, and you can meet the closest person who has the cash for your stuff at the Kwik-E-Mart and complete the transaction faster than Apu can say “We don’t sell newspapers anymore.”

The top 100 newspapers already know all this and are embracing change, not hiding from it.

According to the Bivings Report, a blog about the web-based communications industry, the New York Times has the #1 newspaper website. Their study of the top 100 newspapers in terms of paid circulation considered web features, design, aesthetics, and general usability. Their top 10 list is directly related to their previous research titled “American Newspapers and the Internet: Threat or Opportunity?”

Key points from that research:

• 96 out of 100 top papers use RSS feeds, though no papers include advertising in them.

• 92 out of 100 offer video on their sites.

• 95 offered at least one reporter blog.

• 33 of the top papers let readers comment on articles.

• 29 required users to register before gaining full access to their site, but only 3 wanted money. The rest were free.

The others in the top 10?

Washington Post

USA Today

Houston Chronicle

Denver Post

Knoxville News Sentinel

Fresno Bee

Austin American Statesman


San Jose Mercury News

The broadsheet has been a great medium: It’s portable, fairly durable, and allows completely random-access to information in a simple, user-friendly format. But in the hyper-connected, information-delivered-in-a-nanosecond world, consumers are not going to wait until tomorrow or the next day to find out what they want to know or buy right now; businesses will not bet their bottom lines on manual delivery of parchment to keep up with that impatient, attention-challenged consumer; and news-”papers” that want to survive the first decade of the 21st century—no matter how respected, venerable, and worthy they are—won’t either.

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  1. tristan says

    Just one note eBay bought Gumtree, the site has been around for a while, but I don’t think it was in the US before. They Just update it (not sure quite where yet, looks the same)

    I think you are right with ads but there will still be a massive market for low income free ads (think it will take them a while to come online) so maybe a print summary or public access to these service is required. Though similar service have not worked. So maybe the death of paper will drive these people online.

  2. Plissee Peter says

    I think you are right with ads but there will still be a massive market for low income free ads

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