Arkansas Times Puts Classifieds on Page Two

Conversion of Inside Front Cover is Bonanza for Recruitment Ads.

When readers in Little Rock open their newspaper, they find big two-color recruitment ads for jobs like service rep, registered nurse and computer technician.

No big deal, right? After all, lots of Sunday papers have big help-wanted sections.

Actually, it’s not the local daily they’re reading. It’s the inside front cover of the AAN -member Arkansas Times.

Running career classifieds on page two — traditionally prime real estate for display ads — has been the practice at the Times since last summer. And it’s been nothing short of a bonanza since day one.

According to Classified Advertising Manager Paula Jarvis, the Times’ per page classifieds ad revenue is up 40 percent in the last six months. In September ’98 alone, she adds, the department did $25,000 in sales for the 36,000-circulation, Little Rock-based newsweekly.

“What this does is use the space to raise awareness for our classifieds section,” says Jarvis. “In Little Rock, the unemployment rate is less than three percent and employers — which is our biggest market for classifieds — are having a hard time finding college-educated workers.Our advertisers see this kind of exposure as appealing because it gets read by somebody who’s already employed and isn’t looking for a job: A nurse sees that Baptist Medical Center is looking for an RN to work in surgery and thinks, ‘I’m an RN, I’m trained to do that job.”

The idea to turn page two into a classifieds vehicle came from Times’ Publisher Alan Leveritt. Leveritt had long been searching for ways to expand the Times’ classifieds section — and compete with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s near-monopoly. (Like most cities, Little Rock’s classifieds market is dominated by the local daily.) Last summer, he experimented with cover page teaser ads and newsrack promotions. But they were only moderately successful.

“I first heard about it at the AAN convention [in Washington, DC in June]. Someone was talking about putting classifieds in the front of the book,” says Leveritt. “I came back home to Little Rock and played around with it. I ripped out six or seven [classifieds] pages and put them up front just to see what it would look like. It looked awful. But after playing with it some more, I figured I was willing to sacrifice the inside front cover.”

According to Leveritt, that sacrifice “has been worth it,” spawning an extra 3-4 pages of classifieds in the back of the book.

Leveritt says he’s had doubts about the wisdom of placing classifieds on the inside front cover, especially “when a [display] advertiser wants to sign a 52-week contract but wants page two.” Nevertheless, he says “I’m glad we did it. It’s raised so much awareness for our classifieds and it’s let people know we’re serious about doing this.”

It’s also meant that employment ads now account for roughly 70 percent of the Times’ total classifieds section, according to Jarvis.

Philadelphia City Paper owner Art Howe admits that he’s never heard of a paper putting help wanted ads on the inside front cover. But he’s also quick to add: “I love that idea.”

Howe, who in the late ’80s worked in the financial and marketing departments of the Philadelphia Inquirer for three years, says classified advertising provides alternatives with an excellent front to compete with the dailies.

“Dailies are making an obscene amount of money from recruitment ads. But it’s getting harder and harder for them to deliver,” says Howe, who’s currently in the process of finalizing the purchase of the three-paper chain, Alternative Media Inc.

The alternative newspaper audience is a prime target for many employers — especially those looking for high tech or specially-trained workers, according to Howe.

“People who are the best to be employed at big tech or other technology-oriented companies aren’t reading the Sunday employment section. They’re reading alternatives,” he says. “And chances are, they already have a good job with good benefits at a growth company. [By putting career classifieds up front], the ads come right at [readers] and they can’t miss them.”

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