2021: SAVE YOUR CLASSIFIEDS with these simple ABCs

Janet DeGeorge

Jan 6, 2021

We all know 2021 is going to be as tough-as-can-be to grow revenue for your newspaper, but 2020 was no walk in the park, either. Yet, many of my customers are booming in classified revenue because they were willing to get out of the box and make some new choices.


Time has come to heavily promote this product to your advertisers. First off, try placing an ad yourself through your system. It does not matter what the system is, just note how complicated your paper has made it to place an ad! So many papers are so caught up with making the online ad process price the same as someone calling in, and that makes most ad order entry (AOE) products too complicated. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. This is easy money coming your way, and you should do everything you can to make it productive for you.

1. SIGN–UPS at the end. I hate a system that makes you fill out a sign–up before you even see the packages. It is a big block. Sign–ups should be at the end after someone has completed the process, and make that sign–up as SIMPLE as possible.

2. PACKAGES: Charge by the word and have simple packages at the very beginning. Thirty words, 30 days, $30. SIMPLE. Lowest pricing for merchandise and cars for sale, a little increase for real estate and rentals, and another increase for employment that includes your online product. The only other rates you need are short-term garage sale rates for two days, and your 30-, 60- and 90-day service directory package. Done.

3. BRAND IT and PROMOTE IT. You should create a direct and promotable URL that goes directly to the AOE. Let’s say in the browser window you see 
https://timestodayfocus.com/5678. You can create a simple URL that your web people can redirect to that very address. Keep it simple such as PlaceAd.newspaperurl.com. Now promote that everywhere: email blast it and have it on every classified banner and every filler.

4. FREEBEE: The hardest part is getting an advertiser to use it for the first time. Pull an email list of all the employers in your area that you can get and email blast them a free ad worth say $200 and the AOE. Once they learn your new easy process, they will keep using it. Do the same for former garage sale customers, rental customers, realtors, etc. Getting them in once is the trick that will start the new revenue stream. Try 100 email offers per week, and then continue to follow up with those who take advantage of your offer.


Employers love targeted special sections, but the question remains, what makes a special … SPECIAL?

1. DIRECT MAIL: One of the most popular special sections, of course, is healthcare. You can get ready–made healthcare job tabs from GreenshootMedia.com. They come out every quarter. Look at the theme of the section. Some are themed to assist medical help regarding COVID, some are for medical training and some are generic. These always sell out if you MAKE IT SPECIAL. Here is the big secret to that. Buy a small direct mail list of local nurses. You can get 1,000 names ready for mailing for about $160. That small investment will end up making you $5,000 to $10,000 and more. Direct mail right to the nurse’s homes is something no medical hospital or clinic can say no to. My customer, The Pilot in Southern Pines, North Carolina — a Sunday/Wednesday paper about 10K circ — just tried it for the first time, and a quick $5,000 was added to its revenue. Any paper can do this. Please write to me if you would like a copy of their section and where to get your mailing list. It is easier than you think.

2. WRAPS: My customer in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has had great success selling employment WRAPS in 4- and 8-page sections. Selling a product by saying EVERY reader will see it before they even see the front page is a huge advantage. And it does not have to be on Sunday/weekend section. This is a very creative way to make that special ... SPECIAL!

3. LEAD LIST: When bringing together a lead list for your newspaper reps who will sell employment (and all sales reps should be selling job display), think like a recruitmnt agency. Choose the biggest and richest companies in your area. They do not want a 2x4; they want half pages, even full pages, and they have the budget to buy it. Create a rate structure for job display that applies discounts as the ad gets bigger, not just if it runs longer. Make sure your ad design is recruitment agency quality, and those big companies will buy it every time.


Take a really good look at your classified pages. Are they modern, easy to read, organized? Or are they a mess with loads of filler and badly designed ads? That is what I call an “unsellable” classified product. Your classified section is always your best promotion, and if it does not sparkle with a modern, clean look, no one wants to buy it or read it. Classifieds should also be filled with appropriate content (GreenshootMedia.com has loads of classified content — even weekly garage sale stories) so it pulls readers in from the editorial sections. Readers equal not only more results for advertisers, but they could become advertisers themselves.
Want a great classified section again? Check out the Sunday e-edition of www.ThePilot.com. A full four pages of employment, six pages of real estate and a full page of hearty service directory every week. Add one fantastic classified manager and one super sales rep who are fearless in getting out of the box to restore their classifieds. For more information, please contact me at my personal email, janetdegeorge@aol.com. © Janet DeGeorge 2021. All rights reserved.

Janet DeGeorge is president of ClassifiedExecutiveTraining.com and consultant to over 250 newspapers from 2,000 circulation to 500,000 circulation. DeGeorge trains, redesigns, creates new rate packages, helps find the right online vendors and creates a 12-month plan to follow for success in building classified revenue. You can reach her at her personal email janetdegeorge@aol.com or (602) 717-7473