Topix to Power Free General Merchandise Classified Ads for Tribune

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By: Jennifer Saba

Tribune Interactive has partnered with Topix.net to host free online general classified ads across Tribune’s 12 newspaper Web sites, starting with baltimoresun.com.

Topix, a news community site partially funded by Gannett, McClatchy, and Tribune, will provide Tribune with individual co-branded classifieds for the general merchandise category.

Tribune already offers free general merchandize ads up to a certain amount in seven of its markets but the company was looking for a cohesive approach across all its properties. “We had not been as aggressive as we should have been,” admitted Tom Finke, vice president of development for Tribune Interactive, when asked why the company was making a push for free general merchandise ads now.

Over the past year, several newspapers, like The San Diego Union-Tribune and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, have converted their general merchandise classified ads from paid to free — at least up to a certain dollar amount — to combat the fast-growing Craigslist.

As for Tribune, the company started looking late last summer for a partner. Finke said they approached several vendors but settled upon Topix because the company had the “best product and strategic vision.”

Topix currently has over 100,000 classified listings in several categories including auto and help wanted but this partnership extends only to general listings.

Topix generates revenue with performance-based advertising. Tribune will get a cut of that revenue; both companies declined to specify the percentage.

“We are really excited about it,” said Mike Markson, vice president of business development at Topix about the new technology and the opportunity to expand it out to other partners. “We are psyched to get it up and running.”

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