GREAT IDEAS

Driving classified car sales

Programs that give readers more reason to visit their sections

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There's no one-size-fits-all program for "Run Till It Sells" classified ads. Two media companies having success with the concept in vehicle sales have different requirements and different approaches.

Representatives of the Shelby County Reporter, a weekly in Alabama, and the News-Argus, a six-day daily in Goldsboro, N.C., presented their programs at a recent SNPA P2P video conference.

Because Boone Newspapers Inc., set up a regional classified call center at the Reporter, based in Columbiana, Ala., 13 markets now offer "Run It Till It Sells" private party auto ads. The papers are in Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi and Tennessee, said Daniel Holmes, classified manager.

"It's something that we've had here in Shelby County for a number of years. It's been pretty popular," Holmes said. "It's been wildly popular in every market that we introduced it to."

For $50, the seller gets up to 25 words and the option for a photo, in print and online, until the vehicle sells. "Anything with wheels we will consider as an auto special," Holmes said. That includes boats and RVs; boats especially are popular in the Lake Martin area of Alabama served by The Alexander City Outlook.

Businesses aren't eligible under the commercial rate structure. Holmes estimates that classified ad sales have increased by 20 percent as the program is introduced to each market. Plus, it gives readers more to look at in the classified section.

Some vehicles sell in a day; some sell in a couple of weeks; and some take a few weeks longer, Holmes said. "Sometimes they don't sell. If you don't have the right reader that's in the market to buy that camper, that car, that boat, whatever it is, they will continue running for a little while."

Classified reps in the call center will help write the ad to include details that might attract buyers. If the vehicle isn't selling, the seller will be asked if he or she wants to rewrite the ad, lower the price or pull the ad. If the seller wants the ad to stay in the paper, it does.

In Goldsboro, the News-Argus is ramping up a "$30 Sell Your Vehicle" program that began in December after the paper's sale to Paxton Media in November.

"Our classified automotive rep came up with the idea of working with local dealers," said John McClure, publisher and ad director. "They needed an affordable way to get their cars into the paper with maximum exposure. So we came up with a month program for each vehicle at a price point that smaller to medium-sized dealers could afford."

For $30, the dealer gets a 1-column by 3-inch ad with a photo in the classifieds section that runs up to 30 days. Ads are also posted in the classifieds of the paper's website.

McClure said most of the vehicles have sold within 30 days and, if they don't, the dealer usually changes it out for another vehicle.

Private party sellers can also buy the 30-day ads, but the intent of the program is to bring in the small and medium-sized dealers. The "Cars for Sale" section of the classifieds has gone from an occasional private party listing to 20 ads in some weeks.

The price point was arrived at in consultation with some of the dealers, McClure said. The program is still developing as sales staff continues to make introductory calls on dealers and lot owners.

McClure said the pages look better and the ads seem to be engaging readers. "Those photos seem to make a big difference versus just a line ad," he said.

McClure said other papers should try the idea if they need to build classified auto sales. "It's not a new idea, but you know, some older ideas are coming back."

For more information, reach Daniel Holmes at Daniel.holmes@shelbycountyreporter.com and John McClure at jmcclure@news-argus.com.


Jane Nicholes

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 jbnicholes@att.net.

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