GREAT IDEAS

Self-service help-wanted classifieds

GateHouse self-serve system has other applications as well

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For the do-it-yourself employer, GateHouse Media's self-serve recruiting ads have proven to be convenient and popular. For GateHouse, they've proven to be lucrative.

GateHouse impressed people at a recent SNPA P2P (Publisher-to-Publisher) video conference on classified advertising with this number: projected revenues of $1.5 million for 2019.

That's up from $107,000 in 2017 and $473,000 in 2018.

"We've had pretty good success with it, [as a] matter of fact, so good that we're trying to replicate it in other categories," said Bob Birkentall, director of online verticals for GateHouse. "We want to optimize self-serve in general."

GateHouse newspapers offer two packages that include employment listings with the national service ZipRecruiter, its primary recruitment advertising partner. The packages are pricey compared to the usual classified ad, but Birkentall said the market is holding up because of the wide-open job market and the attractiveness to people who want to write their own ads and tinker with them before posting.

To see how the system works, go to the Providence Journal website, www.providencejournal.com. At the top of the home page, click on "jobs," then click on "Post your job," and then "Post online + Print."

One package starts at $450.18 and includes seven days of a print ad with six lines of type, 30 days on ZipRecruiter.com and cross postings to other job websites such as Indeed. The other package starts at $369.64 and includes six-line print ads on Wednesday and Sunday, 30 days on ZipRecruiter.com and cross listings on other sites.

GateHouse projects 3,750 orders across the company this year. Potential advertisers have the option of working on the wording and saving their ads to come back later and rewrite if they choose.

Birkentall said that where papers used to push print classifieds and try to upsell customers to online, the opposite is true today. The self-serve approach was the brainchild of Chris Johnson, vice president, recruitment category sales for GateHouse. Johnson is also responsible for the technology platform used, Birkentall said.

"From an e-commerce standpoint they're relatively high-priced, which we had some concerns about. But they seem to be working."

GateHouse continues to tweak the system and experiment with self-service in other advertising sectors. The two areas that have proven most popular in addition to recruitment are obituaries and real estate.

Both funeral homes and families can compose their own obituaries. For old-school journalists who have nightmares about people submitting false obits, Birkentall said that has yet to happen.

The price deters people from trying to plant a fake obit, he said, and the submissions can be easily verified. Obituaries submitted privately by families mention a funeral home 80 percent of the time, and the local paper can check the listing on the funeral home website or call the family back to verify the information if there's no funeral home listed.

As for real estate ads, sellers seem to like composing ads themselves. Self-service also makes composing the pages much easier, Birkentall said.

"By using this system, it's much easier for us to put these pages together, as opposed to the old-fashioned way of tracking down cocktail napkins and photographs."

For more information, reach Bob Birkentall at bbirkentall@GateHouseMedia.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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