By: Joe Nicholson

Landon Ventures Off Traditional Rep Firm Turf

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by Joe Nicholson

Newspapers long believed they had some sort of ancestral right to
recruitment advertising. And newspaper rep firms used to think they
were limited to the turf of national advertising.

When the Internet became a player a few years ago, some Web
enthusiasts predicted it would quickly pilfer newspapers’
$8-billion-a-year revenue from recruitment advertising, which is
the largest category of classified advertising and a category
that exceeds the combined total of all national ad categories.
Now, most newspapers realize recruitment advertising, also known
as help-wanted advertising, is a competition, not an heirloom.

To exploit this realization, New York-based Landon Media Group
Inc., which represents almost two-thirds of the nation’s dailies,
has expanded its national-based ad representation by setting up
a subsidiary called the Recruitment Marketplace to help clients
generate recruitment ads.

‘Frankly, we’re on the cutting edge of a host of issues,’ said
the firm’s chairman and CEO, Owen E. Landon Jr., in a letter to
E&P, ‘because the newspaper industry has problems and opportunities
that go well beyond national advertising … ‘

The firm figured its 950 national-advertising clients would be the
best prospects to sign up for its new service, for which it
charges papers a flat fee based on circulation. The first few
dozen papers to sign up last year were from the firm’s national
ad client list, but, as months went by, more and more of the
papers signing up came aboard as a result of word-of-mouth. The
classified subsidiary has now enlisted 105 newspapers, and at
least half of them are first-time Landon customers.

‘I won’t lie to you. We’re surprised’ by the high proportion of
first-time customers, conceded Executive Vice President Mark B.
Landon, who exercises general oversight of the subsidiary. The
decision to set up the subsidiary was made by the firm’s ruling
family, father Owen E. Jr., son Mark B., and son Owen E. III,
also an executive vice president.

San Francisco papers sign up

Two non-Landon customers who signed up in recent months for the
firm’s new service are the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco
Examiner, which publish a joint Sunday newspaper with more than 30
pages of recruitment ads. The other days of the week, the two papers
run an average of five or six pages of recruitment ads, all of which
appear in both papers.

Betty Noor, classified advertising director for the San Francisco
dailies, said she urged them to purchase the Landon classified
service several months ago because she regards it as ‘a great idea.
‘We just never thought a rep firm would pay much attention to
classified, frankly, because they are focused on national,’ said
Noor, who has spent 38 years in classified advertising, including
a stint as recruitment advertising manager, at the two San Francisco

The need for a classified ad unit at a rep firm increased with the
nation’s full-employment economy because employers have been having
trouble locating groups of workers with various skill sets. Some
got so frustrated with poor results, they questioned the value of
ads in newspapers.

Recruitment advertisers’ real problem, according to Mark Landon, was
that they ‘didn’t have the resources to identify which markets were
best to create the match … When the labor pool shrank while the
jobs available expanded, they kept going to the same [major markets]
to try to fill those jobs and eventually those wells went dry.’

Research offered via the Web

Landon’s new unit stepped into the breach by providing the nation’s
hundreds of agencies, which buy a major part of recruitment ads,
with free, in-depth research about which markets have job candidates
with the skills being sought. The research is offered via a Web
site ( and in a monthly
10-page newsletter, which is used to support and promote the Web
site. The newsletter covers selected markets (selected, that is,
for where Landon client newspapers are located) and includes a ‘pink
slip’ section listing layoffs along with the job skills of those laid

To direct the subsidiary, Landon hired Debbie Stremmel, vice president
of Recruitment Marketplace; she brought an extensive r?sum? in
classified advertising, most recently as national advertising manager,
a job that also included supervision of recruitment advertising, at
Greater Philadelphia Newspapers, a division of Levittown, Pa.-based
Calkins Newspapers. Stremmel’s staff gladly does free research for
agencies that seek more detail than they find on the Web or in the
newsletter about where to find workers with particular skills.

When Landon replies to agency requests, it provides all leading
geographical locations for finding particular workers, but the rep
firm only helps place ads if they will appear in Landon client papers.

If an agency is considering a market with nonclient newspapers, said
Stremmel, ‘We don’t tell them how to get in touch with [those papers],
phone number and e-mail address, special sections. We don’t quote
rates, mechanical requirements, deadlines. We don’t tell them if
there is a layoff, acquisition, or merger happening in that market.’

Stremmel said her staff politely tells agencies, ‘If you want to buy
that market, you go find out all the information about it.’ And, she
added with a laugh, ‘We know, they don’t.’ A typical agency staffer,
she said, takes the attitude, ‘I’ve got plenty of markets to buy.
Why would I do all of that extra work myself?’

It may be that Landon’s most convincing sales rep is the 800-pound
gorilla known as the Web. While newspaper recruitment advertising
has continued to grow, there were a few moments that approached
panic a couple of years back when newspapers first contemplated
the great ape. As recruitment revenue continues to grow, papers
believe they may lose some ads to the Internet, but hardly the
franchise. ‘I think everybody believes they have lost recruitment
business – I don’t think a tremendous amount,’ said Mark Landon.

Continuing Web anxiety may encourage papers to retain Landon, and
Stremmel conceded, ‘My goal is to represent the majority of the
nation’s papers for recruitment advertising.’

If other rep firms set up classified units, Stremmel said Landon
will be ready: ‘Somebody might think they could copycat and get in
the [classified rep] business and follow what we have done, [but]
we are prepared for that to happen. What we are doing now is not
[our five-year] plan. This is just the beginning. We have a lot
more that we want to add.’


Joe Nicholson ( is an associate editor
for E&P.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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