By Melinda Gipson
NAA Director of New Media Business Development Analysis
Hagen Software Inc.
730 24th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
Increasingly, it appears that The Digital Edge's HotPicks space is being devoted to low-cost solutions addressing online newspaper priorities. e-Classifieds is a case in point. This particular company took an interesting path to our HotPicks feature page. Discussions with the Reston, Va.-based Morino Institute led to an introduction to this Northern Virginia "Netplex" company. A day later, in preparation for a presentation to the Washington and Oregon Press Associations, the author stumbled across a newspaper ISP Web site using e-Classifieds for its classified solution. I thought I was seeing double.
What I've since decided that I'm seeing is one of those rare examples of a company with a cool technological toolkit that hasn't been ruined by, shall we say, overly optimistic marketers. Here is a classified-enabling company that doesn't cost an arm and a leg (it's first-tier product is F-R-E-E), and that holds out promise for the networking of affiliated sites without the cradle-to-grave relationship or revenue sharing exacted by some classified marketplaces.
Don't get me wrong--I believe in such networks, and endorse the Metcalfe Principle, which goes something like "the value of a network increases exponentially with the number of nodes." If there is any area where newspapers have missed the boat, it has been our inability as an industry to slice and dice our digital assets, combining them into deep verticals with an identity familiar to all Net users and a brand they can trust. But there seems to have been something missing from the models that have emerged so far. Otherwise, wouldn't every online newspaper already have its classifieds online?
Enter e-Classifieds. The tools are inexpensive, and they're bought not bartered. The highest end toolset the company sells is less than $1,000. Who out there doesn't think their classified franchise is worth spending $1,000 to save? e-Classifieds has less experience in networking the various platforms which use its tools, but has been contacted by a few community newspaper associations about networking their individual newspaper member sites into one regional classifieds Web site. Although it requires some additional customization, the e-Classifieds system can be implemented for each newspaper locally as well as on a central server hosting the aggregated database. "e-Classifieds is eager to work with community newspapers and their associations as they develop new business models for the Web," said Phil Hagen, founder & CEO of Hagen Software, the developer of e-Classifieds.
It's of course possible that the online classified aggregators of our industry will see e-Classifieds as a threat and buy them outright. I don't see them as a threat at all, but as an opportunity for smaller newspapers to overcome any possible objection they may have had for putting their classifieds online. There simply is no longer any viable excuse. But take my advice and don't dawdle.
Remember when Real Media's Open Ad Stream was free?
e-Classifieds, a division of Hagen Software, provides electronic classifieds ("e-classifieds") solutions to publishers, television stations, media companies, city guides, online communities, career listings, auto dealers, real estate marketplaces, and other leading Web sites. The company's mission is to be the premier provider of Web-based classified solutions for businesses and organizations worldwide. With more than 10,000 sites currently using the e-Classifieds software suite, e-Classifieds is looking to expand its relationship with newspapers, offering an inexpensive and easy-to-use classifieds solution.
The end-to-end e-Classifieds solution is designed specifically to help newspapers strengthen the value of their brand without losing traffic to classifieds aggregators or other sites, thereby keeping advertising dollars and users on their site. Since classifieds can account for as much as 40 percent of page views for online newspaper sites, newspapers can generate significant incremental revenues by driving Web site traffic and increase the "stickiness" of their sites with repeat visitors. Smaller newspapers benefit from the automated posting and charging processes included in the software because no additional staff would be taxed to handle site administration and billing.
|"Again, thanks for the E-Classifieds product and your organization's assistance in getting this launched for the Ravens fans. It's a great product and has fit well with the community we've built for the Baltimore fans."
Jean DuPoux of PSINet, Web developer for RavensZone, the official Web site of the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League
e-Classifieds' numerous benefits include:
- New potential revenue streams
- Increased interest in your Web site
- Traffic driver
- Interactive involvement of your users and advertisers
- Faster time to market
- Advanced technical capabilities (without an expensive development team)
- Cost savings associated with end-to-end automated Web-based processes
- No commissions or ad revenue sharing fees
- The ability to scale to thousands of classifieds ads
- Immediate access to products with years of research and development experience
e-Classifieds believes that every Web site should be able to use advanced interactive tools. The company provides a range of products from entry-level to high-end versions to meet the needs of any budget and newspaper size.
- e-Classifieds Free Edition--limited feature set but you can't beat the price
- e-Classifieds Lite Edition--entry-level classifieds system with basic posting and searching of ads
- e-Classifieds Basic Edition--includes keyword notify and privacy mail
- e-Classifieds Photo Edition--allows users to upload images and provides enhanced searching capabilities
- e-Classifieds Standard Edition--entry-level database system
- e-Classifieds Professional Edition--secure and scalable database driven system
- e-Classifieds Commerce Edition--includes real-time credit card processing for fee-based ads, Auto-Notify personal search agent, and a checklist feature that allows users to "mark" certain ads for future viewing (the digital equivalent of circling ads in the newspaper)
- e-Classifieds Premium Edition (in beta with final release in Winter 2000)--richest feature set with a template-based customization system, multiple language support, and powerful database features
What Distinguishes e-Classifieds?
- Powerful database searching capabilities. Users can conduct searches based on specified criteria such as city, or price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms (for housing ads), age range (for personal ads), specific features (such as automatic or manual transmission for auto ads, or fireplace, etc. for housing ads), date range, and many more. With its "Auto-Notify advisory service," publishers can send users new ads based on these specific search criteria.
- Portable to virtually any server. e-Classifieds has been specifically designed to work on both Unix and Windows NT. Even if newspapers are using Unix, e-Classifieds offers more flexibility to site administrators who will be able to port it to an NT server if they ever decide to move their Web site.
- Scalable to thousands of ads. No one wants to lock himself into a program that will not be able to expand as the site grows. e-Classifieds is scalable to tens of thousands of ads. The program gives users the option of displaying as few as 10 ads per page, or as many as 250. These settings may be changed based on your preferences.
- Secure through the use of encryption-based authentication for the administrator. Under e-Classifieds' program, the administrative password is stored as an encrypted password in a separate file, so that file or directory can also be password-protected for double protection.
- Configurable through a myriad of options. e-Classifieds lets administrators change the general HTML layout for the entire page through a pagesetup and pageclose variable. e-Classifieds even allows the addition of banners to your pages.
e-Classifieds' suite of products is designed to provide newspapers with advanced functionality typically found only on national aggregator sites such as Classifieds2000 and Yahoo!. The high-end e-Classifieds Commerce and Premium editions include built-in features for e-commerce and are the ideal choice for newspapers, TV stations, corporations, and others seeking the best classifieds program available. Publishers can handle credit card payment inputs by checking to make sure that the number entered is in a valid format for that particular type of credit card. They can optionally compare this number against a list of stolen credit card numbers or numbers that should be rejected for some reason, if they have such a list.
The Commerce and Premium Editions contain many other options for fee-based classifieds, such as the ability to charge just for posting ads, just for viewing ads, just for replying to ads, just for uploading multimedia files, or any combination of the above. They also includes Auto-Notify, which is a database-enabled personal search agent that allows your users to specify discrete price ranges or other features and have only those ads matching these criteria sent to them periodically. The Commerce and Premium Editions contain a two-way, fully secure private messaging system that is ideal for personals sites, as well as the ability to allow users to upload photos, sound clips, and/or video clips to their ads. e-Classifieds can even let you set up "affiliate" Web sites that participate in your classifieds section.
To summarize, e-Classifieds' advanced features include:
- Hassle-free installation
- Portability to virtually all Web servers including Unix and Windows NT Web servers
- Security checks including encryption-based authentication for the administrator
- Spam Guard for blocking spamming, which allows the administrator to block specific users from posting ads based on their usernames or to block access based on partial or full IP addresses
- Sophisticated interface and layout design with five default classified ads database sections for automobiles, employment, general merchandise, housing, and personal ads, each with separate variables and forms optimized for these categories
- E-mail support capability to harvest names and e-mail addresses so they can be used for a mailing list
- Customization of layout and features including categories, the appearance of the ads, such as the table width, border size, background color, bar color, and various text colors and fonts through a template system
- Scalability to thousands of ads (each of the sections can hold anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 ads, depending on the processor speed, memory, and other aspects of your Web server)
- Browser-based administrative controls that allows an administrator to manage virtually all aspects of the program through a Web-based interface
- Fee-based classifieds support with option to use credit card billing or postal billing
- Credit card checking feature that allows you to accept credit card numbers, check them for validity, compare them against a list of stolen credit cards, and then include the credit card numbers in the registration notice that it sends to the administrator
- Private messaging system for a private and secure messaging center. When someone replies to an ad, the poster is notified that they have a reply and is given a URL where they can retrieve it. The e-mail address of the person who replied is not revealed. When the original poster retrieves the reply, he or she has the option of sending a reply back, again without revealing his or her e-mail address. That way, the parties can send messages back and forth through this system without revealing their e-mail addresses or other personal information until they feel comfortable in doing so
- Auto-Notify e-mail agent feature that lets users set up their own personal search agent that will automatically e-mail them periodically with the new ads that match the database search criteria that they specified when they set up their agent
- Powerful database and searching capabilities including: browsing, keyword searches, category searches, retrieval of a specific ad by its database ID number, retrieval of all of a specific user's ads, retrieval of one specific ad for modification, and full database power searches
- The ability for users to upload images, sound clips, and video clips to their ads
- A Banner Ad module that allows you to display advertising banners within the program
- Ability to set up affiliate Web sites that tie into your classified ads database, yet maintain the "look and feel" of their own Web sites (a nice feature for chain papers)
- International features including format and multiple language support
The number of online classifieds has exploded, and sites that feature employment, real estate, automotive, and personals listings are becoming the most popular on the Internet. Since print classifieds account for 35 percent to 40 percent of the revenue of a daily newspaper, the successful transition to online classifieds is critical. Yet less than half of North American dailies have online classifieds. Publishers with an eye to saving a dollar may see e-Classifieds as a good reason to wait.
Since newspapers are following their own unique business models, executives need flexible classified software solutions. While some newspapers are charging for posting, others are relying on advertising for revenue. Further customization requirements include incorporating the look and feel of such newspaper components as the logo, color scheme, graphics, and sections, etc.
Swift Newspapers' Tahoe/Carson Area Newspapers, and Cox Interactive Media's Discover Omaha Job Listings are among the many newspaper customers using e-Classifieds. But there are thousands of other Web sites such as NBC television stations KHNL and WGAL as well as vertical sites as diverse as the Baltimore Ravens Ravenszone and BeautyCare.com that are vying for the same classified advertising business. Newspapers that do not take their classifieds online may be wondering what happened to their revenues in a few years.
e-Classifieds' pricing is based on the type of version used, on a per license basis.
|Version||Lite Edition||Basic Edition||Photo Edition||Standard Edition|
|Version||Professional Edition||Commerce Edition||Premium Edition|
A Licensee (customer) pays the license fee and if applicable, an additional $50 for installation. Customization charges depend on the scope of requirements and changes.
The e-Classifieds Commerce Edition is being offered to NMF members for a special price of US$599. As a bonus, newspapers have the option to upgrade to the Premium Edition (when it is expected to become available in Winter 2000) for the special upgrade price of only US$199. Volume pricing is also available for newspapers with multiple Web sites.
For more information, please visit the e-Classifieds Web site at http://www.e-classifieds.net/ or contact Mona Sehgal, at (202) 333-7969 or by e-mail at .
©1999 Newspaper Association of America. All rights reserved.