New rate structure and guidelines boosts classifieds

Posted

Sean Ireland

The Index-Journal of Greenwood, S.C., has introduced a new rate structure and guidelines for its classified advertising pages that have already boosted the number and types of ads appearing in the newspaper, just weeks after they debuted.

The daily, an independently owned publication, has been using the new structure for about a month and will be rolling out a new website later in October that will allow users to upload more photos to an online version of the ad when they place it at www.indexjournal.com.

Similar to what many larger-circulation newspapers have been doing, the 12,000-circulation (13,000 on Sundays) Index-Journal wants to bring more ads and eyeballs to its classifieds – beefing them up to ultimately attract more readers and revenue.

The new rate structure offers more packaged pricing with free ads for merchandise priced less than $300. "These packages are designed to produce results for the advertiser and to bring more interaction to the classified product," said Advertising Director Bill Cranford. "Readers produce results to advertisers, and returns produce more advertising."

Cranford sees classifieds as an important – if often overlooked – ingredient in the recipe for a successful newspaper. A vital classified section allows a newspaper "to better interact with its community," he said. "Classified advertising generally garners more readers than sports."

The new rate structure emphasizes the jobs, real estate and auto categories in addition to the free ads. "That attracts a younger reader, and the free ads generally include items that are of value to this demographic, such as bicycles, children's toys, and used washers and dryers," Cranford added.

The old structure had per-line pricing in which "private-party advertisers would buy a couple of lines for a couple of days only to produce no results," he said. For the Index-Journal, classifieds had been down 20 percent year over year.

Among the new rate structure's other features:

  • No more pets-to-a-good-home free ads. Instead the paper urges people to go to the SPCA to have their pets spayed and neutered.
  • Yard-sale ads run for three days for a flat rate. Yard sales can be searched by location with keywords on a map in print, online and mobile.
  • Quick cash ads run for 14 consecutive days to produce results.
  • Run-it-until-it-sells ads can be renewed if the item doesn't sell in the first month.
  • Auto-dealer ads run for seven straight days for a flat rate.

"We're working on enhancing our web piece and will introduce special pricing for real estate – sales and rentals – when we launch the new website," Cranford said.

So far, the Index-Journal has seen a marked increase in ad volume since the new structure was unveiled. In particular, advertising for baby-related items has been high, good for attracting and engaging younger readers. The paper also has seen a double-digit increase in yard sale ads and increased traffic on the classified pages on its website.

The paper's nearly immediate positive results came from concentrated promotional efforts. "We waited until we built the rate tables in the system before promotion began," Cranford said. "It's been daily since then."

Newspapers need to make decisions on how to change rate structures on an individual basis – what will work best for their unique audiences and readers. But no matter what changes are, they need to be simple and easy to explain to increase readership and revenues.

Cranford also urged flexibility once the new structure is put into use. "See how much house ad space you have in classified and know free ads will eat into that," he said. "It is private-party advertising, so if it needs tweaking you can change pricing strategies the next day."

For more information, contact Bill Cranford at (864) 223-1411.

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