Building classifieds in community newspapers

January 14, 2015

By Larry Atkinson

Publisher | Mobridge (SD) Tribune

W

hat went wrong?

How did we lose our classified advertising base?

Can we get it back?

Newspapers were built on the single principle of being the trusted source of news and information in the communities we serve. We have always taken this principle to heart and have seen it as our duty and responsibility to be the trusted source for our community. And it was because we put this core value ahead of anything else that allowed us to flourish as a business.

Readers engage us because we provide content they can trust.

We provide our communities’ business people a “trusted” medium in which they can inform our readers about what goods and services they offer and encourage the local public to do business with them.

And, in the past we provided our community members a “trusted” way to buy and sell to each other through our classified ads sections.

All of us have watched year-after-year as our classified advertising literally dried up, as residents opted to use new alternatives. And while we lamented our loss, and in many cases, looked to implement some version of a basic listing site that just seem to have struggled at best, we missed what was happening to our residents and their buying and selling experience on these new marketplaces.

At the beginning of this article, I asked what went wrong. The simple answer is that we forgot that our newspaper was not just simply the vehicle or medium for connecting with our community but our value, our responsibility, our business is being the community’s trusted source.

No matter what alternatives we present to drive revenue, they must be grounded in being the trusted source for the community.

And it is why now, more than ever, I believe community newspapers have the opportunity, and yes, the responsibility, to give the community a safer, more trusted way to buy and sell locally. This will allow us to take back our classifieds and drive new revenue.

The other question asked at the beginning of this article was, “Can we get our classifieds back?” The answer is—yes, we can. And I believe that a new startup company from Flower Mound, TX, will help us take back classifieds and create options for new revenue by giving each of us the ability to create our own trusted online marketplace for our community.

In my years of searching for a solution and recently exploring the option of building it myself, I stumbled upon Curious Marketplaces quite by accident at this year’s NNA convention trade show in San Antonio, TX. The company’s booth was a late entry to the trade show and wasn’t on the printed list of exhibitors. I was heading to another exhibitor’s booth when a sign, “Take back your Classifieds,” caught my attention. But it was the company’s mission statement that kept my attention: “We provide a technology solution to help newspapers drive revenue by becoming their own trusted community marketplace for all things bought and sold locally.”

Jason Adams, the founder of Curious Marketplaces, explained how he has been studying the consumer migration away from large aggregator selling sites because the enticement of convenience no longer outweighed the loss of community and feeling of safety. He stated that the reluctance to purchase online has quickly dissipated over the last two years. He explained how this comfort of purchasing online, combined with the desire to buy with people one feels comfortable with, led him to build the first of its kind, peer-to-peer marketplace technology platform.

Armed with his knowledge and recognizing the void the big marketplaces like Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, Facebook and others were not addressing, Adams set out to provide niche communities their own smaller, safer and trusted marketplace where they could buy and sell with each other. He spent more than $1 million and two years developing the technology and honing his vision into an elegant, full-featured online solution that focuses on all those concerns and provides an extremely easy-to-use interface.

Adams’ vision was to be able to make it possible to have a marketplace that had the highest level of e-commerce functions with secure payment options but have the ease and use of a simple classified. The vision included being able to make it available and affordable to any community, no matter its size, and where that community would be able to have a marketplace technology that was better or equal to any major online marketplace.

His business goal is to give every community, no matter how large or small, its own “trusted community marketplace” as reflected in the company’s mission statement. To accomplish this, his business plan set forth that his company will find and partner with the communities’ most trusted influencers.

When Adams first started, newspapers were not on his radar. The company specialized in what he knew best: niche interest communities like Pez, chess, Star Wars, barrel racing and everything else. It was not until a few newspapers reached out to him asking about the platform that he understood that there was a need and an opportunity to make a difference in local communities by partnering with trusted community newspapers all across America.

Here is where, as an industry, we have the chance to revolutionize local commerce, take back our classifieds and drive new revenue. We can do this by staying true to our core principle and providing our communities with a “trusted source” for buying and selling locally.

Curious Marketplaces’ core principles and its technology solution, combined with Adams’ commitment to partnering with trusted community influencers makes the company a prime candidate for helping us harness that trust to take back lost revenues and become a hero in the eyes of the residents of our communities.

In literally a few hours, Curious Marketplaces can set up a full-featured online marketplace for your newspaper. There is no setup charge, and the monthly cost of the license to use the online software is based on newspaper circulation making it affordable to any size paper.

Curious Marketplaces is a truly a turnkey operation for newspapers and becomes a software tool to drive new revenue. For the community, it is a simple, trusted place for local merchants and residents to buy and sell new and used items.

 

How the marketplace works for residents buying and selling

It’s free for residents to list items/services for sale. The newspaper sets the categories, so if there are categories you don’t want available, don’t put them in. All users selling items have to be a registered member on the marketplace. Registration helps ensure that sellers on the marketplace are not anonymous, like other sites. Curious can offer gated marketplaces, which only allow people to register on the site if they know the key to the gate. Sellers can easily set up their secure payment methods. The Curious platform allows sellers to attach and manage their PayPal and Escrow.com accounts. These entities are the No. 1 online payment processors. This allows buyers to use credit cards and other means to pay and allows sellers to accept payment for their items. This also means a high level of protection for both buyer and seller. Transactions are protected by PayPal’s buyer/seller protection policy. It also means buyers no longer need to carry cash when purchasing through classifieds. This works as well with large item purchases. Any disputes between buyers and sellers are facilitated with Curious Marketplaces and handled by PayPal and/or Escrow.com, not your newspaper. Plus, buyers and sellers make their own arrangements for delivery of goods. Additionally, it is easy for sellers to upgrade their listing to an online featured ad on the marketplace. Lastly, the Curious platform offers newspapers the option to allow sellers to upgrade an online listing to a print ad.

Here is how the marketplace works for local merchants:

Curious gives newspapers the ability to sell full e-commerce solutions to their local merchants. The Curious platform allows local merchants to have miniature online stores on the newspapers’ marketplaces. They are called micro-sites. A micro-site gives local merchant a branded profile with banner ad, video placement, geo-locator and an “about us.” It also allows the merchant unlimited product postings. Each listing has an inventory counter, social share buttons, shipping options and product options. Each listing allows for video placement and unlimited high-resolution pictures. Local merchants can establish and manage their payment processing using PayPal, as well.

Buyers and sellers don’t pay a cent unless something is sold. When a product is sold, the seller is charged a 6 percent fee if it’s under $1,000, $60 if it’s between $1,000 to $5,000 and $125 if it’s more than $5,000. That’s less than what eBay and Amazon.com charge.

All of this results in a single trusted marketplace for your community to buy and sell with each other. And everyone in the community gets the value of having a secure marketplace that is owned and promoted by the community newspaper.

Here are a few of the ways to generate revenue.

• First, you earn revenue off of every item sold on the marketplace.

• You earn revenue from sellers upgrading to featured ads and upgrading to print ads.

• Sell additional e-commerce solution services to your local merchants using the functions and benefits of the platform with a premier or micro-site seller profiles for recurring monthly fees.

• Plus, you can choose to offer enhanced advertising packages that include print display and online activation. For example, you can offer online flash sales and other promotions and display advertising that drives to their free premium micro-site for consumers to immediate convert into a purchase. (That’s something we plan to do with our newspapers’ marketplaces to help us sell more display print advertising.)

• You could also charge sellers a fee to take photos and handle listings for their products, if it’s not something they want to do themselves.

These are just a few ways of generating revenue, but there will be plenty of other new ways to increase value and revenue once we have give the community a trusted online destination for buying and selling.

So, what does all this cost? First, there are no setup fees to build your local marketplace. Curious Marketplaces only charges a monthly fee, and as a true partnership, it shares in a small percentage of the transaction fee only on items sold on the marketplace.

Curious Marketplaces established a licensing fee structure so it can be affordable for virtually any size newspaper to own its community’s marketplace. Additionally, this fee includes exclusive territory for your defined community.

The monthly fees for newspapers are:

• Weeklies less than 5,000 circulation: $99 a month.

• Weeklies more than 5,000 circulation: $199 a month.

• Dailies less than 25,000 circulation: $299 a month.

• Dailies more than 25,000 circulation: $399 a month.

I believe it is being the trusted source, or medium, for our community that is our business and drives revenue, and we have the opportunity to provide that value to our community now with a Curious Marketplace partnership.

I believed so strongly in it that I am not only launching it for my newspapers but I have become an investor in the company.

For more information on Curious Marketplaces and what it can do for you and your newspaper, call Jason Adams at 855-422-7735, ext. 700 or on his cell at 719-510-1087. You can also go the company’s website at www.curiousmarketplaces.com.

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