January 28, 2016 Last Updated 10:38 am

With newspapers giving up on classifieds, app developers have moved in to fill the void

eBay subsidiary Marktplaats B.V. in Amsterdam has launched a new classified advertising mobile app called Close5 which is meant to serve local buyers and sellers looking for a better, more modern alternative to Craig’s List

As loyal TNM readers know, I used to be a classified advertising manager back in the day. Back then, we CAMs, as we were known, drove the lion’s share of the revenue at our newspapers – despite getting far less attention than the editors or the retail ad managers. We didn’t mind, we knew who was driving the car, and so did they. So, when the classified staff attended the corporate sales meeting our publishers rented a limo for the staff to arrive in, such was the appreciation she had for their efforts.

Close5 app

Click or tap to enlarge (3.5MB GIF)

But, as everyone knows, newspapers let their classifieds be stolen away. Though Craig’s List gets much of the blame, the fact is that newspapers stopped paying attention long before the rise of the Internet. But the late eighties and into the nineties, auto traders and real estate tabloid were already eating into the classified business. Only the booming economy and tech bubble of the late nineties hid the fact that there was trouble ahead.

But in 2010, when I launched this website, I said that newspapers had been given an unbelievable opportunity to regain their classifieds – maybe not for their newspapers, and maybe not at the same revenue levels seen in the nineties, but still enough to make classifieds a significant revenue driver again. What newspapers needed to do was become serial launchers of apps. They needed to learn to code. And the first project they should begin with should be a local classified app.

Classified apps have everything a newspaper would want: not only would it possibly drive revenue (depending on the model experimented with), it would keep readers tied to the newspaper brand, serve as a funnel to other apps and digital editions, and build a database of local users that could be used for other projects.

Classified apps can take advantage of geolocation services, emails and phone calling, the smartphone’s camera, calendars, etc. What is not to like about a classified app?

But today how many newspaper publishers come from the ad side of the business, let alone the classified department? Today, the industry is driven by executives sure that the future is reader revenue and so are doing everything they cannot to build ad revenue producing apps. They are succeeding: their apps are not driving revenue. Proof of their genius, I suppose.

So, others are filling the need of private citizens to find ways to get rid of their junk, and the occasional treasure.

The latest to contact TNM about their app was Marktplaats BV, who have launched Close5 – Buy & Sell Locally.

Close5- categories iPhoneMarktplaats B.V. operates as a subsidiary of eBay Inc. The company was founded in 1999 and is based in Amsterdam. The company has 12 mobile apps inside the Apple App Store, including a classifieds app for eBay.

This new apps is not tied directly to eBay, but goes more directly after the market once served by local newspapers.

“Close5 is an easy and fun way to buy & sell locally,” the app description states. “Find items for sale in your neighborhood and broadcast what you’re selling to those around you in just seconds! It’s classifieds made easier.”

The reviews for the app are mostly positive, and though at least one user warned about scammers, I didn’t notice them inside the app. The merchandise is organized by user, but a search will pull up categories.

The app doesn’t feel like it was designed by classified ad pro, which is good and bad. The app prominently features maps to show where the seller is located, but it would have been nice if the app had better categories and subcategories to help buyers find what they want.

Nonetheless, using the app, one can see why downloaders would use the app. The mobile app from the Chicago Tribune is such a disaster that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use it. Besides, there is nothing in the app to help buyers and sellers. No surprise, which executive at Tribune Publishing has ever been a classified manager?

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