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  • Greg Collier 8:31 am on May 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    San Diego magazine chooses Geebo, highlighting commitment to online safety 

    For some time now, I’ve been soap-box preaching about the value of a partnership between a safe online classified community such as Geebo and locally-circulated publications. For the most part, I’ve been referring to the opportunity for newspapers.

    But local magazines are another excellent example.

    Earlier this month, Geebo partnered with East County Magazine, a local publication in the San Diego region that was impressed with Geebo’s commitment to providing a safe haven for online classifieds. For folks in San Diego, that sort of commitment hits close to home. The city has been rocked by at least two high-profile crimes that originated through ads on craigslist.

    The first involved the widely-publicized 2007 slaying of San Diego State University student Donna Jou, who met her assailant through a tutoring ad on craigslist. More recently, San Diego teenager Garrett Berki was shot and killed after a botched robbery attempt that occurred when he answered about a computer for sale on craigslist.

    Thieves and violent criminals will always find a way to seek out innocent victims. But as publishers of online classified ad sites, we don’t have to make it easy for those criminals to use our sites as a means of finding people to victimize. Geebo screens every ad that’s posted to the site and has made a commitment to refuse personals ads, which are often a front for prostitution, human trafficking and other illegal activities. Likewise, Geebo is working with an independent service called WeGoLook.com, which employs inspectors – or “lookers” – to verify items for sale before the buyer and seller agree on the terms of a transaction.

    San Diegans, like Geebo, understand that it takes a proactive commitment to keep a community safe. Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of the magazine, said her decision to partner with Geebo for classifieds stemmed from the violent headlines that sent shockwaves through her community.

    “As a nonprofit media, we are dedicated to helping improve our community and keeping our readers safe,” Raftery said. “We are delighted to partner with a reputable company such as Geebo to provide our readers with the safest possible online classified advertising opportunities.”

    We welcome East County Magazine as a partner not only in the classifieds business but also in our efforts to keep the Internet safe.

  • Greg Collier 9:45 am on May 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Why won’t Geebo’s competitors take steps to keep their users safe? 

    A couple of months ago, I penned an open letter to my competitors in the online classifieds business, asking them to join me in taking some bold steps to make our sites safer. For some time now, I’ve been standing pretty much alone on my soapbox, promoting Geebo as a classifieds site that puts user safety first.

    As much as I enjoy tooting Geebo’s horn whenever possible, this open letter challenge wasn’t meant to be a promotion of Geebo or otherwise present a holier-than-thou message. This was a way of reaching out responsibly to my counterparts in the industry, as if to say, “Let’s put aside our competitiveness and take the steps necessary to deter criminals from preying on innocent victims, via our sites.”

    Not surprisingly, I didn’t receive one response from any of them – Craigslist, Oodle, Backpage and others. Not one of their executives so much acknowledged my letter. Certainly, I didn’t expect that all of the others would jump on board – but I also didn’t expect them all to ignore my pleas for increased user safety.

    I can only guess why they were non-responsive. Maybe they don’t have the manpower to monitor ad submissions. Maybe they didn’t want to acknowledge a competitor for fear of losing customers. Maybe they don’t see the assaults, murders and rapes that stem from meetings on their sites as their problem. Maybe they just don’t care.

    But how can they not?

    Earlier this month, police in New York City reported two separate assaults on prostitutes who advertised their services online, one on Craigslist and one on Backpage.com. And in San Diego last week, a teenager trying to buy a $600 computer off of a craigslist ad was shot and killed by three other teens during the course of a robbery gone bad.

    Robberies and assaults occur everyday and criminals looking for victims will do whatever it takes to find them. But do our sites have to make it easy for them? There’s no way a crime involving prostitutes would have originated on Geebo, which doesn’t accept personals or escorts ads. Likewise, Geebo’s partnership with WeGoLook is intended to prevent the types of tragedies that occurred in San Diego. By dispatching an inspector to verify the item for sale ahead of time, especially bigger ticket items where a buyer might be carrying cash, WeGoLook and Geebo can offer some assurances to potential buyers that the deal is legitimate.

    I guess I could use this blog solely to toot Geebo’s horn and publicize things like our sponsorship of FAIR Fund’s annual Pearls of Purpose Gala, an organization committed to battling human trafficking of young girls. But that’s just self-serving and doesn’t advance the causes.

    I can’t stop hoping that, even though the recipients of my open letter chose to be non-responsive to me, that they’ll take the words of that letter to heart, take note of the incidents that are originating on their sites and start making the changes that deter criminals from preying on their users.

  • Greg Collier 3:31 pm on May 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Classifieds and newspapers: More reasons why there’s still a spark 

    In a blog post here last week, I chimed with some thoughts on the relationship of newspapers and classifieds. Newspapers are local brands and, as such, have the advantage of serving as the community’s bulletin board – both online and in print. It’s not too late for newspapers to lean on classifieds for increased revenue.

    I shared my post on the Facebook pages of some newspapers, including McClatchy Newspapers, the company that owns the Sacramento Bee, the hometown paper of Geebo’s birthplace. I was happy to see a comment post by a McClatchy rep, albeit an anonymous one.

    This rep’s argument in the exchange about Career Builder is strong. Newspapers were quick to realize that the most lucrative pieces of the classifieds revenue pie included job listings, real estate and car sales. Those were the community businesses who were doing the advertising.

    But classifieds also included everything else you see on sites like Geebo today – used furniture, rooms for rent or garage sales. Those were the listings from the people in the community, the readers with whom newspapers had a trusted relationship because of their journalism. And even though those 2-line, agate-typed listings for a lost pet didn’t bring in as many bucks as the job listings, they were a link to the community – something that was just as valuable.

    A report released this week by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University highlighted a case study about TV station KSL in Salt Lake City, which jumped into the online classifieds game early on and focused its efforts around providing a safe online marketplace for its audience. Owned by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, the station refused adult-oriented ads and screened for potentially fraudulent ads. (via NYT)

    Newspapers once did the same thing. And it’s exactly what Geebo does now.The Columbia University report quotes Clark Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of the station’s online properties, which includes KSL.com. He said:

    “Here’s something hard for old-media people to accept. … Our news content gave a level of trust to the classifieds, and classifieds drove relevance back to the news.” Or, put another way, the fact that readers have come to rely on the classifieds under the KSL brand helped to
    build relevance and credibility in the news as well.”

    Interestingly enough, the same Columbia University report also uses McClatchy Newspapers as a case study, looking at how the chain has had to rethink its advertising model. The linkage between the news side and the ad side of the business is breaking down and news orgs are looking for ways to replace it.

    The report quotes Chris Hendricks, VP of Interactive at McClatchy, who said: “The longstanding premise of content and advertising being inextricably linked has clearly fallen apart.” He said the company has started selling space on Yahoo or Facebook as part of the pitch to local advertisers, essentially turning its own salesforce into the local sales team for worldwide online companies. “It’s almost like we are a sales and distribution company that decided we’re going to fund journalism,” Hendricks said in the report.

    As newspapers rethink their advertising models, it’s important for them to remember that classifieds were once an important element of a lucrative model. Yes, they may be seeing nice returns on employment ads or real estate listings – but are they still the trusted marketplace host for their local readers? There’s still a chance.

    • Gary Randazzo 10:44 am on May 18, 2011 Permalink

      I agree with Greg’s assessment that newspapers’ classifieds can play an important role for their community.

      I also agree that newspapers need to rethink how they are approaching the advertising model for the Internet.

      I do not agree that newspapers should become advertising brokers for Facebook and similar programs as an approach to funding journalism.

      Newspaper publishers need to recognize the value of paid subscribers as an audience for advertisers that can be reached consistently. Publishers also need to recognize that subscribers”hire” newspapers to do a lot of jobs. The Internet allows newspapers to do those jobs more effectively and efficiently.

      So rather than reselling programs others have developed and thereby give away the value they create and the ability to create new value, publishers should try to find ways to create programs that do the jobs that Facebook and others do but for their constituency. For example create social networks based on community events and organizations.

      Publishers also need to create a relationship between their print/digital editions and their websites that are symbiotic. Houston Business Journal offers bulk digital editions to businesses and then updates subscribers with emails. I believe symbiotic programs can be created for display and classified advertising and for subscribers.

      I also believe that newspaper publishers are discovering this and will ultimately reclaim ground that has been lost.

  • Greg Collier 3:42 pm on May 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Newspapers and Classifieds: They can still be a team in the online age 

    The newspaper industry has certainly fallen on tough times in recent years and it’s sad, in a nostalgic sort of way, to see the old print edition slowly head out to pasture. It had a good run, though, surviving the arrivals of radio, television and around-the-clock cable news before the Internet hit the scene. We now know what a game-changer the Internet was. But despite the warning signs, newspaper executives were caught off-guard by it, blinded by the resiliency of the industry to survive the earlier game-changing forces and convinced that their business model was immune to the power of the Internet.

    Since the beginning, newspapers have made their money from advertising, using the eyeballs of their daily readers to sell pieces of the newsprint page to advertisers eager to showcase their products and services to the folks living in the area. That’s been the basic model for generations and, for quite some time, it proved to be a quite lucrative model. But it wasn’t just those big fancy full-page ads featuring the latest cars or fashions that brought the big bucks for newspapers. The classifieds – those daily agate-typed two-liner listings that advertised things like missing cats, apartments for rent and used cars – were also a newspaper cash cow.

    Geebo, of course, is in the online classifieds business. And a decade ago, when Geebo was just getting started, I pitched what I thought was a slam-dunk of a deal to the Sacramento Bee, the local newspaper where the company was founded. The idea was to upsell classifieds customers – notably employers providing job listings – by including it in both the newspaper’s print edition and also on Geebo, with a 50-50 revenue split. Initially, the executives at the newspaper were excited about the deal but the decision-makers at the top killed the deal. They didn’t understand why the online listings were important. The Internet, after all, was just a fad.

    Fast forward to today and we know how this story has evolved – and just how wrong those newspaper executives were about the Internet. Granted, not every newspaper is struggling in the online landscape. Some have built quite the online presence – albeit a bit late to the game – to showcase their content. And some are bringing in ad revenue by way of those Web pages. But it’s certainly a lot more crowded in that media landscape today than it was 10 years ago. The so-called “citizen journalist” has been empowered by blogging tools, Facebook posts and Twitter, as well as mobile apps and instant digital photography. Readers today have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to a news provider.

    But let’s not throw in the towel on newspaper companies just yet. The truth is that many of them, especially in medium- or mid-sized markets, still have a lot of life left in their brands, their reputations and their reach.

    Consider this: Newspapers have long been regional news outlets because they had a limited geographical reach, a physical boundary that they held to because of the costs involved with the daily delivery of the product. As regional sources of news, they focused primarily on local headlines but also rounded out the offerings with news stories from the next county, the next state or even the other side of the world – sometimes from wire services, other times from their own correspondents stationed in key cities.

    Today, with the power of the Internet, newspaper companies have the opportunity to expand their reach and compete for readers on a global level – just the same as every other newspaper, or blogger, for that matter. And while that potential reach can be enticing and exciting, there’s also no shame in focusing more on re-building that core local audience, the one that not only wants to know if the planning commission approved the new shopping center but also if anyone spotted Fluffy, the neighbor’s cat, anywhere near Main Street and Central Avenue.

    All of that, of course, brings me back to the classifieds. Here at Geebo, we understand the significance of a global audience. We, too, are looking for ways to expand regional listings to broader audiences. Last month, we announced a partnership with WeGoLook, a company that performs on-site inspections of items – largely big-ticket items like cars or boats – for prospective buyers, regardless of where the product is located.

    We still believe in the power of local and continue to welcome partnerships with newspapers to both localize and globalize their classifieds listings. A site like Geebo already has partnerships with some of the niche sites that newspapers are turning to for specialized listings, such as cars and homes, but can offer them a greater variety of listings because we haven’t limited ourselves to just one partner for car listings or job listings, for example.

    Certainly, classified ads are only one part of the newspaper’s other potential sources of greater revenue. Advertising in the Internet age may be different, but it’s still lucrative – just ask Google. Today, newspapers who target a regional area may not score the big display ad from the national retailer, but it is possible that the local car dealership or grocery store might be interested in reaching that targeted regional audience that’s checking in regularly to keep up with the headlines from their neighborhoods.

    In some ways, things haven’t changed at all.

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