Online Video to Add Horrifying New Time-Wasting Dimension to Classified Advertising


If you spend any time reading about the woes of print media in the online age, you're likely to encounter people on the print side weeping gently about a key revenue source that the Web has caused to ebb--the classified ad. Yes, yes: Craig Newmark ruined the world with his ubiquitous Lists, and now everybody searches for jobs online, and the newspaper classified has become "passe."

But with the rise of YouTube has come a more recent innovation--the video classified--and, according to the L.A. Times, "Now static classifieds could be on their way out on the Web." The Times makes note of some sites that are devoted to this form of classified advertising, such as and, and declares the whole thing, "A no-brainer."

Nearly 50% of the U.S. population -- 155.2 million people -- will watch videos online for one reason or another in 2008, research firm EMarketer has predicted, so there's obviously money to be made.

We're not sure how it follows that the raw popularity of online video will in turn make long load times and endless buffering a wholly accepted part of the experience that is buying a used Ford Festiva, but that's apparently beside the point, because as president Alan Jacobson notes: "We're trading on the insatiable demand for personal celebrity. Everybody wants to star in your own commercial."

Well, who knew? At any rate, video classifieds present an opportunity for newspapers to get back into the classified ads racket. Jacobson says his site was "teaming up" with an unnamed "major newspaper company." Furthermore, the Times notes:

Many newspaper websites have started to allow users to post video ads for cars, houses and jobs, the most lucrative classified categories, said Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of Classified Intelligence, an industry consulting firm.

Video ads work well for newspapers because humans are naturally drawn to movement, he said. And print classifieds, which charge per word and often contain abbreviations and grainy photos, are limited by space in a way that video ads aren't.

Uhm...okay. We are drawn to movement--and shiny things! But aren't classified ads supposed to be simple, and cost-effective? Once you factor in the expense of the video equipment, the matte paintings, the storyboards and craft services, hasn't the cost-to-benefit ratio been blown out of the box? Plus, there's all that waiting around for "the magic hour!"

Look, we don't mean to be skeptical, but it's hard not to be when you read the Times lede, which describes one Sammy Stevens, his "rap about his flea market," and the reggaeton remix that's been made of his ad. Sorry, but if finding out the essential details of your product or service involves a reggaeton remix, that's a dealbreaker.

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