WAN-IFRA: Why is the classifieds business such a hot topic for publishing companies all over the world?
Peter Zollman: Classified advertising is a high-margin, high-interest business that touches critical parts of everyday lives – cars, homes, jobs and “stuff.” Everyone needs transportation, a place to live, a job and the things we use in our everyday lives. Classifieds help people find those things.
What makes the classifieds business in Africa different from the landscape in other parts of the world?
Classified advertising in Africa is different from other parts of the world because the evolution to digital largely skipped over the desktop computer and went straight to mobile devices. Payment systems are different in Africa; economic development is varied in different markets and countries, ranging from large urban markets to undeveloped rural areas; and the classified advertising companies are a mix of small and large, local and multinational.
It’s always difficult to talk about Africa as a whole, because the countries are so different. Where do you see the most interesting developments?
We view Africa as a wide-ranging group of markets and countries. Several multinational classified companies are trying to work across borders, while there are also small and not-so-small companies working to develop new distribution channels and pay systems within classifieds.
In Europe and Asia we see a lot of big players in the classifieds market. Is there still an opportunity for small and medium-sized publishers to get a share of this market?
Small and medium publishers can still “stay in the game” or “get in the game” through a wide range of approaches – free classifieds, which actually can be quite profitable; alliances with major classified publishers or other small and medium publishers; “co-opetition” with competitors that brings benefits to both sides, and development of totally new approaches to the classified markets of cars, homes, jobs and “stuff.”
What would you recommend to a small media house that wants to join the game?
Each situation, circumstance, country and market is different. It’s too complicated to make a blanket recommendation, other than to say, “The old approaches don’t work any more.” Any media house can and should provide strong classifieds as an integral marketplace for their users, readers, advertisers and audiences. Any company, large or small, has to be innovative, creative, nimble, willing to consider new tools and new ideas, and aggressive about trying things that may fail or may lead to great success.
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