Bye-bye, billions

By Steve Outing

Charlotte-Anne Lucas had a great post (well, perhaps it’s better described as a rant) earlier this week about the horrendous loss of several billion dollars by the newspaper industry just in the recruitment/jobs category of classified advertising. She takes newspaper publishers to task for “blind incompetence” in not responding appropriately to online classifieds competition. It’s a good read, as is Alan Mutter’s Feb. 10 blog post, “Help Wanted, Desperately.”

Reading that duo’s thoughts, you’d be within reason to think that the newspaper industry will not recover because it’s incapable of the radical change necessary for newspaper classifieds to survive in the Internet age. Having seen the industry react too slowly and not aggressively enough on so many fronts over the last 15 years (when the Internet first burst into public consciousness), I have my doubts too that it can suddenly “get the Internet religion” and come up with something so bold and innovative to save classifieds. But I haven’t given up hope.

Sometime back in the ’90s I wrote a research report for Editor & Publisher on online classifieds, and I continue to have more than a passing interest in newspaper classifieds. I’d like to see the industry save those revenues, in order to fund the important journalism that newspaper companies produce. I’m currently involved in a couple of interesting new projects (and resisting the call to find a “real job” :) ), and one of them is aimed at reinventing and saving newspaper classifieds.

The classifieds project remains in stealth mode while we design and build the initiatives that will be part of it. But as we progress, we intend to be open about what we’re doing and use industry input to design the best solutions to what are now some very serious problems. Sorry not to offer more information, but this project is in its earliest stages. I do think that the ideas we’re working on have a good chance of solving some of newspapers’ problems.

I’ll post here as bits and pieces of our project are ready, and the project will have its own website ready soon: For now there’s nothing there but a Coming Soon page and a 5-second poll.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!