For more than a century, classified ad business was dominated by the newspapers. In the offline world of the days now long gone and forgotten, it was tremendously lucrative, accounting for a significant part of publishing business’s revenues. There were even numerous standalone classified ads publications, either free or paid, attracting both readers and advertising profits.
It all changed in 1995, on the eve of digital revolution. It was that year that Craigslist was launched. It is estimated that today, this online classified giant costs tens of millions to run, at the same time bringing hundreds of millions in revenue.
While online publishing has sucked dollars out from the pockets of offline classified publications, it was a good news for an average classified user. Since cost of publishing on Internet is very low, online classified advertising websites can afford to let users post, and reply to ads, without a fee.
The real problem with free classifieds today, for both the classified ads website owners and their users, is not the operating cost, but the issue of “getting found” among the myriad of free ads in the jungle that is the Internet today. And it’s a huge problem!
The solution to this growing problem of “getting found on the Internet” appears to elude even the most hardened Internet marketing veterans and offline advertising mavens. That led some to proclaim the death of classified ads business model. They were probably too quick to write them off, though.
Online ads certainly have some serious advantages over offline ones going for them. Not charged for by the line, they can be longer. Once posted, they usually go live almost instantaneously. Unlike their printed counterparts, they are searchable.
What can we expect from the classified ads in the future? Well, they are yet to respond to social, something that is changing the Internet before our eyes. Giving the ads a “social layer” could infuse a new blood into the old industry. One important advantage online advertising has over traditional, but hasn’t made a full use yet, is performance monitoring in real time.
In recent times, a growing number of new classifieds emerged, some offering hyper-local listings, while the other cover globally. Niche classifieds are offering everything under the sun, specializing in anything from business opportunities or personals, to boats or pets.
Despite the growing pains, online classified ads world looks like it’s thriving! Classified advertising has a long history, and it is definitely not still… history.