Vocal and Visual Classified Upsells

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By: Jim Rosenberg

Two very different new services allow classified ads and ad sections to add information that allows them to hide or highlight advertisers’ locations. As functional enhancements, the services provide newspapers with upsell options that go well beyond the art and typography ordinarily used to call attention to ads.

The ClassAdd Service of Dallas-based Network IP supplies “private, secure and disposable” telephone numbers that offer the advertiser the convenience of taking prospective customers’ calls at any location but with callers unable to learn that location. ClassAdd Sales Director Louis Mooney said he expects that over time fewer private parties will want to put personal contact information in their classified advertising. Such numbers may be even more attractive to those running personal ads precisely because they do include other personal information. The advertiser’s own telephone number is never published.

Through an arrangement that brands the ClassAdd service as a newspaper’s, publishers resell local or toll-free “disposable” numbers to advertisers, who can set and reset the number to ring any phone. The number that appears in an ad rings the assigned phone until the advertiser turns off the ClassAdd number – avoiding the problem of calls generated by an ad still running after, say, a car is sold or a job is filled.

According to ClassAdd, the upsell provides privacy, is easily set up for landline, cellular phone, and international numbers, can be turned off at any time, and generally costs an advertiser only a few dollars.

Senior Product Manager Ben Dominguez-Benner said that although the service was in development since last September and tailored for launch at Nexpo 05, the company’s Web-based Integrated Connections technology behind it dates from 1999.

Mooney said the company was in formal talks about bundling the ClassAdd service with the classified advertising systems of “six major providers.” But while Network IP before would only deal with vendors to newspapers or other businesses, Dominguez-Benner said the ClassAdd business was trying to promote its service directly to newspapers as well.

Effective today, Classifieds2GO.com, St. Joseph, Mo., which creates technologies that merge print and online publications, has added NetworkIP’s ClassAdd Service to its suite of Internet-based classified advertising applications. Classifieds2GO.com newspapers can now market ClassAdd with every sale.

“We are positioning ClassAdd as a safety solution in an environment where consumers are facing both personal security and identity theft challenges,” Classifieds2GO.com President Jay Dee Shores said in a statement announcing the arrangement.

While publishers assign numbers and collect payments, Network IP supplies the technology and tools for using and managing the ClassAdd service.

Users can specify number (and extension), examine transaction and call-detail records, and check expiration and amount of time remaining on account (out of 50 minutes per number). Larger corporate advertisers using ClassAdd Business Service can capture all callers’ numbers, track calls, and report data on all calls.

Newspapers have access to management and profitability reports, use and effectiveness feedback, and training in selling and service management. Online customer service also is available.

At least as far back as the early 1990s, newspapers offered automated voice-mail/messaging options, keeping advertisers’ phone numbers private and clear while allowing them to call to check responses that may have been recorded at any hour of the day (E&P, April 20, 1996). The ClassAdd system maintains the advertiser’s privacy while allowing caller and advertiser to converse, rather than merely leaving and listening to messages, although voice mail is available.

For advertisers wishing to ensure that readers will be able to find them, Maps.com, Santa Barbara, Calif., formed its Classified Concepts division to supply maps for newspaper classified and real estate sections. Among Maps.com investors and board members is former Lee Enterprises CEO Lloyd G. Schermer.

The division is only a year old, but the company dates from 1991, when it was founded as Magellan Geographix. Upon acquiring Maps.com in 1999, it also adopted the name. Clients range from the National Geographic Society and the Automobile Association of America to major metropolitan school systems, publishers, and cellular telephone system suppliers.

When Maps.com approached its local daily with the idea of offering maps for use in open-house ads, the turn-around time for satisfactory maps was too long to meet the publishing deadline, said Maps.com Executive Vice President Charles Regan. So the cartography company worked with the Santa Barbara News-Press for about six months to devise a process with shorter turn-around. Today, the paper downloads its completed listings into a spreadsheet that it then e-mails to Maps.com.

For another newspaper, the company supplies maps for garage-sale ads, and the locator maps also may be used with listings of rental properties, retailers, and community events. In all cases, the one must-have piece of information is a street address. Downloading all the information into a spreadsheet and sending it off to Maps.com takes between 30 and 60 minutes, according to Regan.

Maps.com plots all the addresses on a map that it converts to a PDF file, which is either sent to the newspaper or retrieved by the paper from an FTP site. The News-Press pays a flat fee for the maps and service.

The map not only makes the real estate section more useful to readers, said Regan, but also more attractive to advertisers. It provides the extra pages for the full-page premium ads the News-Press can sell — primarily to real estate agents, who would see house hunters carrying the maps around for days after publication.

Until maps were available, the pages to carry the advertising did not exist. “Revenue from the four full-page ads the News-Press has run “actually exceeds the revenue from the cover,” Classified Advertising Manager Sarah Sinclair told E&P. The paper has regularly used the maps since February 2004, she said, calling them “a great centerpiece for us to base the expansion of our section around.”

The News-Press has been running four pages of maps in the tabloid section. Printed as two, sequential double trucks, they appear eight alternating map and ad pages. Sinclair said each map-facing page is popular for showcasing a single, usually high-end property.

In response to what Sinclair said was reader and advertiser requests, her paper added a fifth map page earlier this month.

Other papers will sell sponsorship of the map, and some use a “forced upsell” that raises the listing price but puts the advertiser’s site(s) on the map, said Regan. The maps also tend to raise ad volume in general, pulling in other location-based businesses besides real estate companies — for example, builders and property-management companies.

Regan reported 13 Classified Concepts customers, with Sunday circulations ranging from 3,500 to 300,000. Five of them have Web sites with maps. Though a “complementary program” for the print publication, Regan says the online version has stand-alone value as well. Online maps can be made interactive, with the listings searchable by any description — location, house, apartment, date of availability, etc. Clicking on an individual listing brings up detailed information.

Driving directions also can be supplied with online mapping, and Classified Concepts recently expanded that to include routing, which allows the user to plot a logical sequence of stops when visiting multiple locations on the same day. Furthermore, a mapped location on a newspaper’s Web site can contain a link to that agent’s or other business’ site.

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