By Dan Lindley

    A bold initiative launched by the Chicago Tribune early this year, which radically pared and redesigned its print recruitment classifieds to redirect traffic to its Web site, has worked well, its creators told CIR this week. So well, they say, that they launched an additional QuickText mobile feature for the service on Sunday, and plan to expand the idea to automotive classifieds soon.
    In January – see CIR 9.01, Jan. 17 – the Trib collapsed its print recruitment ads to two days: brief QuickFind notices in the Tuesday business section that included just the job title, location and a Web ID number readers could use to find more information on the Trib’s job site; and the traditional but radically redesigned Sunday classified section, in which the usual 10 columns per page were cut to four. Recruitment ads were sold more like modular ads, by size – from small to extra-large –  rather than by lineage. The changes in print ads were designed to be more easily scanned by readers, who could go to the Web for complete information on particular job postings.
    The initiative has been a success, according to its prime movers, Ellen Glassberg, director of classified advertising, and Michael Liu, director of classifieds strategy. Results have been so good, they said, that the Trib’s print recruitment ads will now be linked to mobile telephones via a QuickText program rolled out on Sunday. Job-seekers who see a help-wanted print ad that interests them can text-message the Web ID number to have the full listing sent to their mobile phone.
    The QuickText service will connect mobile users not only with the Trib’s paid print edition, but with ads in the company’s free weekday tabloid, the RedEye, which has a circulation of about 200,000 and is distributed in the city and suburbs at commuter train stations, bars, Starbucks, college campuses and via “ambassadors” handing them out on city street corners. The idea behind the QuickText initiative is that mobile telephones are much more portable than even laptop computers.
    The RedEye tab is to the Tribune broadsheet as mobile phones are to computers. It is “the print version of mobility,” as Glassberg described it, and commuters and others on the go can more easily respond to the RedEye’s QuickText ads with their mobile phones. The mobile ads feature company logos with links to advertisers’ Web sites. Adding the free RedEye tab to the mix brings the recruitment ads to a whole generation of under-40 potential job-seekers who seldom buy newspapers but who do pick up freebie tabloids.
    It’s early, but so far the mobile-phone initiative also seems to be off to a good start.
    “We had a few hundred texts for listings by mid-morning,” Glassberg reported the day after the RedEye/QuickText mobile app was launched. “Novelty factor aside, still great to see!”
    The hope is that QuickText will mirror QuickFind’s success. Since the original QuickFind and Sunday changes were initiated at the Trib in late January, Glassberg said, Web ID searches have increased by an average of 75 percent a month. They jumped by 99 percent in June, she said. Web ID EOI (expressions of interest, meaning that visitors clicked a link) has been up 70 to 80 percent, she said. Some of the increase is due to the overall secular growth in Web use, Glassberg conceded. But that probably only amounts to about 25 percent year-over-year, she said. “We’re very happy with the results and it makes a big difference to our advertisers,” she said. “And it makes a difference in revenues.”
    Though the Trib’s owner, Tribune Company, also is part-owner of CareerBuilder, the operator of big national and international employment sites, the Chicago Tribune developed the technology for the initiative in-house, Glassberg said – though she added that the jobs database that users can access of course includes CareerBuilder’s deep pool of postings.
    Another paper in the Tribune chain, The Hartford Courant, has launched a similar initiative in Connecticut called IFindJobs, according to Peter Wyble, the paper’s recruitment and telemarketing manager. The Courant still runs recruitment ads in its print editions seven days a week. But in May, it began publishing grids of brief job listings on Saturdays and in its Sunday ITowns sections (“hyperlocal news sections,” as he described them). Inclusion in the IFindJobs grids is a $50 upsell to advertisers, said Wyble, who added that they’ve been “well accepted” by advertisers. The Courant is undergoing a major redesign that will likely include more changes in recruitment advertising similar to what’s been done at the Trib, he added.
    Other newspapers in the company probably will make similar changes, Liu said, as they adapt their back-office technology to the system. Glassberg said that she’s unaware of any other newspaper that’s copied the Trib’s novel approach to recruitment ads, though she said that she gets one or two inquiries a week from other newspapers curious about the new approach. In house, the Trib has had so much success with the recruitment-ad changes that it’s looking at applying the concept to other classifieds.
    “We’re very close to having a similar situation with auto listings,” Glassberg said. Given the reeling real-estate market, taking such an approach in housing ads has been a tougher sell, she said. Still, the success with the changes in recruitment advertising has shone a rare ray of light into the nation’s unusually gloomy metro newspaper business offices. “It’s pretty exciting here,” Glassberg said. “We’re having fun.”