Classified ads come alive on the Web

Classified ads come alive on the Web

Popularity of video fuels homemade commercials.
By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 6, 2007
Sammy Steven’s rap about his flea market in Montgomery, Ala., appears
on YouTube and classified ad sites and has been remixed into American
Idol and Reggaeton versions.

Classified ads in newspapers have been passe for years, thanks to the
Internet. Now static classifieds could be on their way out on the Web.

The next big thing? Video classifieds — consumer-produced commercials
that range from embarrassingly low-budget to masterful, with
humiliating, somewhat amusing and compelling in between.


Several websites are devoted to video classifieds, including and, and consumers are starting to post them on established commerce sites like and

It’s 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.

And there are benefits for consumers. With videos, sometimes buyers can
see who’s trying to sell them something, and whether what’s for sale
lives up to the billing.

"Video enables the seller to create credibility," said Randy Selman,
chief executive of Onstream Media Corp., a Florida-based company that
partnered with EBay to help users post video ads there.

But what’s really behind the trend? Also a no-brainer.

"We’re trading on the insatiable demand for personal celebrity," said Alan Jacobson, president of "Everybody wants to star in your own commercial."

Troy Schoeller insisted that wasn’t the case for him. He owns Horror
Business, a shop that sells punk-rock and hard-rock clothing and music
in Boston, and was having trouble conveying the essence of his
offerings with the fliers he put up around town. So he posted a video
ad — starring himself standing beside a rack of shirts and near a
decorative corpse — on

"The fliers can’t show the naked, bloody women I have hanging on my walls," he said, "or my really hot mannequin."

The video posting, he said, drew customers.

Video ads don’t always work. Sandy Dykes, a Florida resident who wanted
to give away kittens, posted "Circus Kats" — showing felines playing
with balls of yarn — on YouTube, and Realpeoplerealstuff. The video drew more hits than classifieds he ran on, but no buyers.

Video classifieds are new, and the basics — cars, washing machines,
adorable kittens — are still pushed mostly through old-fashioned
methods on the Web. The Internet has yet to develop "critical mass of
buyers and sellers" via video, said Barry Parr, an analyst at Jupiter

Right now on Realpeoplerealstuff,
there are videos featuring an "attractive YouTube star" (name and fame
unknown) selling a novel; a Montgomery, Ala., flea market (the ad first
appeared on television); and an Australian python named Lucifer
(selling Lucifer? It’s not clear).

For all that, video classifieds might find a savior in an unlikely place: newspapers.

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.

Jacobson said the site was teaming up with a major newspaper company —
he wouldn’t reveal which one — in a revenue-sharing video ad program.
People who buy classifieds in any of the company’s newspapers will be
offered the opportunity to post video ads on,
for no more money.

The site’s technology will make it easier for users to post video ads,
he said, marking one way for papers to hold on to the $20 billion spent
on advertising in the daily newspaper classified marketplace.

"Newspapers that really offer effective classifieds, including
video, will still be in the classified business for a number of years
to come," Zollman said.

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