As the papers incorporate time-saving search functions that prevent the thumb-blackening process of combing print classifieds, the ads are gaining popularity.
Electric Classifieds, which licenses one of these services, contends the online classified advertising market will hit $80 million by 1998. Electric Classifieds claims newspapers will enjoy the lion's share of those revenues if they develop sophisticated models soon.
PROBLEMS FOIL PROGRAMS
The question now, though, seems to be the national/local debate that has plagued newspapers appearing on the Web.
"Eventually, consumers are going to want their reach to be broader," says Marsha Stoltman, VP at consultancy Kelsey Group.
During 1995, classifieds appeared in hybrid Websites like CareerPath.com (http://www.careerpath.com) and AdOne (http://www.adone.com), which blend listings from multiple newspaper brands.
CareerPath specializes in job listings run in big-market papers like The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, and The Washington Post. AdOne includes classifieds on a berth of topics drawn from more than 50 smaller-market newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.
Classifieds also have appeared as standalone sections embedded within an online newspaper's content, such as the area of the San Jose Mercury's site.
"For newspapers, classifieds could be a cash cow. But that's not to say other brands can't grab market share," Ms. Stoltman says.
CARS, AND MORE CARS
There are sites that sell nothing but cars, like Auto-by-Tel.
EPage (http://www.ep.com) offers a little of everything, as does AmericaNet (http://www.ameriwhich sells jewelry, lists jobs and follows missing persons.
Working on the premise that classifieds are newspapers' domain, but that newspapers don't necessarily have the desire to develop their own online mechanics from scratch, companies like Prodigy Services Co. and Electric Classifieds are licensing their classified technologies to newspapers.
Prodigy recently completed licensing deals with 20 different online newspaper titles to use technology it built for Houston Chronicle Interactive.
CUSTOMIZING THE SITE
The new licensees can customize classified ad systems on their Web sites. Among the signers: Times Mirror Co.'s Newsday as well as The Tampa Tribune and Southam New Media of Canada, which owns 17 Canadian dailies.
Electric Classifieds licenses Match.com online personals service to America Online as well as other service provider but wants to use the technology on which Match.com was built for newspaper classified advertising.
"Newspapers are very used to a revenue stream from classifieds that they're loathe to give up, so we're in the process of signing many agreements with them to license our technology," says Fran Maier, general manager at Electric Classifieds.
Newspapers, such as The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com), make the service available free. The in January added a sophisticated searchable real estate database.
Times Mirror Corp.'s Newsday (http://www.newsday.com) works with its print classified buyers on an added-value pricing scale. Classified advertisers pay $1 per line above to the $7 to $20 per line prices already in place for print, according to John McKeon, director of advertising.
"We didn't want to force a packaged price on our advertiser for online," he says. "Instead, the print sales force sells them.