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According to Classified Intelligence, as reported in Paid Content, Knight Ridder Digital will make all online private-party merchandise ads free in almost all of its markets.

Cars, Jobs and Real Estate will still cost money for advertisers in KRD sites. But the move is an attempt to stem the growing defection of would-be advertisers to online free sites such as Craigslist, LiveDeal and others.

According to an AP story: "The free ads lured more visitors and encouraged more people to buy ads in other categories," said Anna Zornosa, chief marketing officer for Knight Ridder's online operations.

KRD's move comes on the heels of sometime partner Tribune Co.'s expansion of its free classifieds site Recycler.com into six new markets: Dallas, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, print classifieds were worth approximately $16.6 billion in 2004:

  • Recruitment ad spending: $4.6 billion
  • Real estate: $4.2 billion
  • Automotive: $5.0 billion
  • Misc: $2.8 billion

The Kelsey Group estimated that online classifieds (which includes dating) were worth approximately $1.95 billion in 2004.

We also recently wrote about online classifieds and how the model is moving to a free basic listing (probably across the board) with an upsell to value-added features. It appears that's starting to happen at an accelerated rate.

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Here's Tony Gentile's write up of "The Future of Online Classifieds" panel at Drilling Down on Local 2005.

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