AUTOBYTEL.com COURTS NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY

By: Karim Mostafa

But Most Papers Reject Web Site’s Advertising





MONTEREY, Calif. – Autobytel.com, the online car seller, wants to place classified advertising in print newspapers, but as Monte Zator, vice president of marketing, said this week at E&P’s Online Classifieds Industry Symposium, the majority of papers have been turning down his business.



Over the past six months, Zator has approached more than 30 newspapers to place classified ads, only to find them citing concern about long-standing relationships with auto dealers that already advertise in their publications.



Autobytel.com works closely with car dealers as well. More than 5,000 of them place listings for new automobiles on the site, which has sold cars to more than seven million people.



So why classified advertising in newspapers? Autobytel.com has recognized, like eBay did before it, that newspapers have a local penetration that most national dot-coms lack. Print classified sections remain an old stalwart for car buyers, Zator admitted.



So he’s pitching “co-opetition” between Autobytel.com and newspapers, citing the $50 million that Autobytel has spent on television advertising already.



To some newspapers, such a hefty advertiser would be more than welcome. Susan Nieman, director of sales at MySanAntonio.com, said, “To me, [Autobytel.com’s] a new customer. I want his business.”



But others were more hesitant. In a roundtable discussion following Zator’s keynote address, attendees expressed concern that even a small ad from Autobytel brings with it thousands of dealers that compete with their own dealers. The cost of that single ad isn’t worth upsetting local car dealers that spend thousands annually in their local newspaper, some executives said.



“Co-opetition? Gimme a break,” one attendee said. “The reason why Autobytel wants to advertise so badly in our paper is that we have the [audience].”





Karim Mostafa (kmostafa@editorandpublisher.com) is associate editor for E&P Online.





Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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