TV Stations Take Aim at Classifieds

Jun 17, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Television stations, which are fighting it out with local newspapers for advertising revenue on the Web, are aiming squarely at a mainstay of their print competitors’ business — classified ads.
Both sides have been tagged as old-media dinosaurs with limited growth prospects, and the Web offers each its best chance at long-term sales gains. That has led newspapers to encroach on stations’ traditional business by creating their own video newscasts. The stations are scrambling to turn the tables on newspapers, which enjoy a huge lead in Web revenue.
“Online is a serious, serious business now and all these mediums realize they can’t stick to their original core business,” said Jonathan Leess, president and general manager of the CBS Television Stations Digital Media Group, which has seen a 170 percent increase year-to-date in Web dollars. “[Classifieds are] a logical next step for extending our digital reach.”
CBS-owned stations rolled out paid classified sections last week on their Web sites, complementing the eight to 10 hours of ad-supported Web video they offer each day. The paid listings will be accompanied by opportunities for clients to place display ads next to the classifieds.
NBC, Young Broadcasting and Waterman Broadcasting also are pursuing Internet classifieds.
The lure is a $10 billion online classifieds market, of which TV stations have snared only 2 percent. TV stations earned $158 million last year in online classifieds and should finish this year at $253 million, according to media-research firm Borrell Associates. Meanwhile, newspapers should hit $2.2 billion in online classifieds this year, up from $1.8 billion last year.
Stations must pry some classified money away from papers if they are to catch up online, said Keith Norman, Internet director for Waterman Broadcasting. The group’s Fort Meyers, Fla., NBC and ABC affiliates beat the local papers in Web traffic by 40 percent to 50 percent, but lag in revenue by 10 to 1, he said.
That’s because of the stranglehold papers have in classified real estate, automotive and job ads, he said. His four-station group has started expanding its classified sections online to better compete, he said.
The online obstacles for both stations and newspapers include freebie competitor Craigslist, which has contributed to annual declines in the billions of dollars for print classified sections. The stations are avoiding direct competition with Craigslist by courting clients such as automotive dealers, who will pay to place their inventory on the Web.
For stations, though, playing on the Web means playing catchup, as papers are projected to pull in $3.4 billion in total online advertising this year. Stations are expected to garner only $618 million in Web revenue, according to Borrell Associates.
To gain ground, the CBS-owned stations are juicing up their online advertising programs by letting users upload postings and video about the merchandise, furniture and jobs they are advertising. CBS is currently pursuing ad partners for the classified ad sections and plans to tie them in to on-air spots too, Mr. Leess said.
After offering classifieds for several years on the Web site run by its Sioux Falls, S.D., CBS station KELO-TV, Young Broadcasting has begun rolling out classified sections to the rest of its 10-station group, said Deb McDermott, president of Young Broadcasting.
“This is very valuable incremental revenue for us, and across the company it will be a considerable amount of money,” she said.
The NBC-owned stations in San Diego and Washington, D.C., also have begun testing classifieds online. The group’s flagship station, WNBC-TV in New York, earlier this month launched a local online and on-air real estate show produced by Lx.tv. That program may be a good opportunity for the station to offer real estate classifieds online, said Frank Comerford, general manager of WNBC-TV.
Newspapers will continue to counterattack on the Web, trying to beat stations at their own game by loading up on video content.
The New York Times now counts 20 employees on its video desk and produces about 25 online video stories each week, said Ann Derry, editorial director for video and television at the paper. That video is ad-supported.
“Like every other major news organization, we can’t afford not to be in the market,” she said.
The Washington Post has won a national Emmy, a Peabody and an Edward R. Murrow Award for its online video content.
“Our level of interest in offering online video is very high,” said Jennifer Moyer, chief operating officer for Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive. “Today, advertising from video still represents a small percentage of our total advertising revenue — but one that is growing nicely.”


  1. This “TV capturing Classified” has been happening for quite some time. Classified Intelligence, a consulting firm out of Florida, has a report, “Broadcasters and classifieds: Major growth in major markets,” about just this very thing – TV, radio AND cable sites taking classified ad dollars away from newspaper and making a big splash with it. The report is free and available at the classified intelligence website.


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