Steve Outing, of E&P and, more recently, Reinventing Classifieds, is asking for your help, and he’s offering $500 as an incentive:
WHAT CAN THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY DO TO 1) BRING BACK CLASSIFIEDS CUSTOMERS (BUYERS AND SELLERS) THAT HAVE BEEN LOST TO ONLINE COMPETITORS, 2) ATTRACT NEW CUSTOMERS WHO HAVE NOT USED NEWSPAPER CLASSIFIEDS BEFORE, AND 3) RETAIN ITS REMAINING CLASSIFIEDS CUSTOMERS?
But to back up a little, Step One in solving any crisis it to define the crisis. We’ve all seen the numbers, watched them slip year-over-year. But sometimes the numbers aren’t enough. You need a picture. Here’s what the biggest slice of the classified picture, help-wanted, looks like in 2008:
(2008 estimated based on first-half performance. All data from NAA.)
You don’t have to be a draftsman or Photoshop guru to visualize that trend line’s forward direction if nothing changes. It hits zero in mid-2010.
You can look at the chart two ways. The first, is that we’ve got $2.6 billion at risk that we have to do everything in our power to save. That’s been the approach of the newspaper business so far. We said the same thing when we had $5.1 billion at risk. And $4.7 billion. And $3.8 billion. And still the slide continues.
Or, we could take another approach. We could say that in 2011 dollars, we have nothing at risk. Because if we don’t do something dramatic, that’s exactly what we’ll have. Nothing.
Next: a modest proposal to help stem the tide and relieve Steve of his $500.
Hint for where this is going: Look at the chart above and remember that Craig Newmark started his expansion in 2000.