Newspapers generated $17.4 billion in classified advertising last year, and local broadcasters want a piece of that pie.
Classified ads have long been the mainstay of newspapers, but with the success of Monster.com and Hotjobs.com, station groups such as Liberty Corp. and Belo are building a business case for hosting employment ads and other classifieds on their stations’ Web sites and leveraging the strength of their on-air promotional power.
Liberty has begun implementation of a comprehensive strategy to roll out employment ads on its 15 station sites. Liberty has dabbled in classifieds for a few years, and in December it added job listings, built on the job database of Careercast, on the Web sites of its NBC affiliates WAVE-TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE-TV in Evansville, Ind., and KCBD-TV in Lubbock, Texas. Liberty expects to host job boards on the other 12 station sites by the middle of next year.
Liberty is building its classified business on the backbone of the already robust Web operations it has fostered since 1999. On average, about 18 percent of adults 18 and over use the stations’ sites, with some averages as high as 24 percent, said Ron Loewen, VP strategic development at Liberty. “[Classifieds] was a logical extension of our success on the Internet as an audience and revenue builder,” he said.
The station group quadrupled its unique visitors in a little more than two years from 200,000 per month in October 2000 to 1.2 million unique visitors a month in February 2003.
With that base, classifieds seemed a logical pursuit for a local broadcaster, he said. In the past two years, newspaper recruitment advertising lost $4.5 billion, while online recruitment advertising grew by $4.7 billion, according to Corzen, which tracks ad spending for 360 U.S. markets.
Liberty’s NBC station WAVE in Louisville at www.wave3.com offers about 51,000 job listings. The job board is one of the most highly trafficked sections of the site, and job listings generate six figures in annual revenue, Mr. Loewen said.
A 20-day posting costs $249, comparable with a newspaper listing, said Clay McNeill, Internet director at WAVE. What the station really pushes, though, are packages that can include unlimited job listings, a profile of the company, a button on the main job listing page and on-air mentions as the “job of the day.”
Liberty plans to expand into other classified categories, such as real estate, auto and general merchandise by mid 2004.
In March Belo Interactive, the Internet subsidiary of Belo Corp., launched a real estate classifieds section on the Web site of its Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV and www.dallasnews.com, its Web site for the Dallas Morning News. Belo plans to introduce the service to nine other TV and newspaper affiliated Web sites over the next few months, said Eric Christensen, general manager for Belo Interactive.
Over the past year Belo premiered its JobCenter product, powered by Careersite, an engine for job classifieds, in four TV markets. Belo offers online car classifieds in all but one of its 19 TV markets.
Newspapers simply don’t have the promotional might of the TV stations, said Sandhi Kozsuch, senior VP of WorldNow, which powers Liberty’s station Web sites. “TV and the Internet are the two most powerful mediums. On air and online work well together,” he said.
Newspapers generated about $44.4 billion in advertising revenue in 2002 and about 39 percent of that money came from classifieds. For the larger papers, the percentage is closer to 45, said Gordon Borrell, president of Borrell Associates, a local media research firm.
Only a handful of broadcasters have capitalized on the classified potential because they traditionally view their Web sites as marketing venues, not as business opportunities, Mr. Borrell said. “What we’ve seen at Liberty is these guys are sharp and very focused on the opportunity to disrupt competitors in the marketplace,” he said.