SAGE ADVICE: Local Market Access for Sale!

By: Leo J. Shapiro, Steve Yahn, Erik Shapiro Newspapers are still the most likely place that folks go to sell something smaller than a house. According to our Leo J. Shapiro and Associates February 2007 national poll of 450 consumers, nearly one in three (32%) say they have placed an ad in a newspaper to sell something, while only 18 percent have ever gone to the Internet to sell something.

But the Internet is gaining ground. In the seven days before the poll, equal percentages of consumers (3%) have placed ads to sell something in newspapers and on the Internet.

eBay, just one Internet-based company where people now go to sell things, has a market value that now rivals the market value of the largest newspaper companies. Craigslist and Zebo are other, fast-growing Internet platforms where everyday people can go to sell things.

Each of these Internet companies for human-to-human sales has carved out and occupies a proprietary niche. eBay is an auction site, taking advantage of the Internet?s superior facility for interactivity. Imagine the absurd and glacial pace of a parallel auction enacted in the want ads of a newspaper. And eBay stretches far and wide to bring consumers to markets they would otherwise have never heard of, much less been to.

Craigslist -- where folks go to post ads to sell stuff locally -- is complementary to eBay, which indeed has owned a quarter of it since 2004. According to a recent article on (April 30, 2007, ?eBay Sellers Buy and Sell on Craigslist?), many entrepreneurs scour Craigslist for items to buy and resell at a nice profit on Ebay.

Zebo -- a whole new kind of Internet creation -- has already built a user base of 6 million consumers [roughly equal to the combined circulation of The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, who use it to maintain an online inventory of what they own and, also, what they want to own. It hopes to begin to earn a profit when its user base becomes massive enough to attract advertisers. The idea is that marketers would scour Zebo ( to identify customers who demand what they can supply, and then sell it to them.


What these three Internet giants have in common is that local newspapers are positioned to be ideal strategic partners for them.

Local newspapers have a local presence. For a fee, they could summarize what is good and interesting and always local from Zebo and Craigslist and eBay, so that local buyers and sellers would have a better idea of what is locally available and easy to get without hassle. It might also be a just a good plain fun regular feature to read.

Moreover, local newspapers could offer a local service for worry-free exchange of goods. In China, where credit card penetration and acceptance is less than here, some smart business people have filled the gap by offering escrow services, where they accept the item and the cash from the seller and buyer and give each to the other. They charge a small fee, but it is less scary than a face-to-face meeting. And no one needs to drink a Starbuck?s coffee unless they really want to.


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