Update On Newspaper Experiments With Free Classifieds; Tribune’s Recycler.com Back To Drawing Board

We wrote about it late last year when the San Diego Union-Tribune announced that, after 90 days, its experiment with free classifieds for items under $5,000 was paying off. We asked then if the ads were actually translating to readership beyond the classifieds or to real money and if 90 days was enough to be a real success. Classified ad director Dexter LaPierre’s presentation at NAA last week, covered by Poynter’s Bill Mitchell, suggests 90 days was too soon. “We were not very successful at up-selling, and when we stopped promoting, (lineage) began dropping,” he said during the session. The free offer increased lineage by as much as 200 percent when promoted but the numbers dropped to 110-120 percent sans promotion.
At the same session, Tom Finke, Tribune’s director of corporate development, said that the up-sells from free classified ads at Recycler .com didn’t cover customer acquisition costs.
NAA’s Rob Runnett adds considerable detail. Finke said the effort to roll out Recycler.com to other markets didn’t work and that Tribune is “going back to the drawing board in terms of an online only free classifieds play.รข

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