The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that its free-classifieds program, in place since late August, is a "success." It allows private parties to place up to 12 free ads per year which go in the print edition and on the website. Free ads are permitted in the categories of merchandise, automotive, boats, jobs wanted, found pets, and found items; goods for sale cannot be valued at more than $5,000.
The Tribune did not report on the financial success of its upsell efforts or whether there had been any secondary financial benefit to the free listings.
Craigslist and, more recently, LiveDeal (which is partnering with newspapers, offering its platform) have de-facto established that basic online listings will need to be free to be viable. The revenue game then is about professional sellers and upsell opportunities.
In addition to all the verticals, the major search engines have classifieds marketplaces or are in various stages of their development. Currently online classifieds in the major categories is approximately a US$2 billion market, whereas traditional print classifieds were worth almost US$17 billion (U.S. market) last year.