By Gina Ruiz

The Baltimore Sun is placing its chips on a newly launched print recruitment-classifieds section, which the newspaper believes can help it better meet the needs of its clients, diversify its revenue streams and tap into a new, more youthful, readership.
The section, dubbed Find It!, is different in that it looks more like an editorial features section than it does a traditional, help-wanted section, with lots of stories, photos, graphics and “interactive” points of entry designed to appeal to the “lifestyle” of the career-minded, rather than merely the job-seeker.  While many newspapers wrap their jobs sections in advertorial content, canned tips from the U.S. Department of Labor or rehashed content out of the business pages, The Sun’s is decidedly different.

Find It!, which is inserted in the Sunday newspaper, showcases stories that are  work-place related. The content covers a broad range of topics: career-advancement tips are there, to be sure, but so are highlights from the week’s most entertaining YouTube clips. The idea is to give the section a life after all the other Sunday sections hit the recycle bin – something you might keep on your coffee table or find in your office’s break room. The content is produced by editorial freelancers and managed by the paper’s advertising division.

Renee Mutchnik, The Sun’s director of marketing and communications, says the content is intended to be informative and fun, which play a critical role in attracting young, passive job-seekers. Reaching this demographic is an important objective for the newspaper, she notes, because that it is a key audience for many of its recruiting advertising clients.

She says the idea for Find It! emerged in the spring, during a brainstorming session in which newspaper executives had gathered to find ways to give its recruiting classified section a shot in the arm. “It is no secret that the industry is seeing recruiting advertising dollars shrink across the board,” Mutchnik  noted. “We think we came up with a pretty good format to counter all of that.”  

She says the newspaper did not use focus group studies to roll out the classifieds section, but that it did rely on suggestions and feedback that it had received from its advertising clients over time.

Mutchnik says that while the wildly successful online classified titan, Craigslist, has a presence in the Baltimore area, it did not play a central role in the launch of Find It! “The primary reason behind this effort is to better meet the needs of our clients and readers,” she said.

At its core, Find It! was designed as a destination hub to which local job-seekers can turn to meet their professional needs. There is a raft of utilities, such as the networking opportunities section which showcases job fairs or places where workers can receive free training workshops.

Unveiled Aug. 24, the newspaper hopes Find It! can keep readers engaged by eliciting their active participation in the stories. For instance, in the best-dressed section, readers are encouraged to submit photos of a colleague that they think dresses well. “We put in these types of details to get readers hooked,” Mutchnik said. “They will be looking for the section every week to see if their entries make it into the newspaper.”

In addition to generating a loyal base of readers, the newspaper believes the new content can be leveraged to diversify its roster of advertising clients, Mutchnik  explains. For instance, Find It! features a happy-hour calendar, which highlights fun after-work bars and restaurants. This creates a new opportunity for the sales force because it can go out and offer advertising space to pubs or restaurants. “These are clients that would otherwise not be sought for the recruiting classifieds section,” she said.  

The accompanying content is not the only significant difference that Find It! brings to the table. The ads themselves have a different look-and-feel, as the newspaper no longer sells them by the number of words. Instead, they have been converted into modular ads, which are sold to fit a particular size. The newspaper adopted this modular format in order to keep consistency and make the ads to easier to read by job-seekers. The newspaper does not offer free ads. The open rate for small, modular ads start at $150.

Although Find It! is print-centric, it does takes into account the relevance of online. All of the print ads contain an ID number that corresponds to CareerBuilder, which powers the Baltimore Sun’s online recruiting platform. Mutchnik says the newspaper has plans to further integrate print and online classifieds in the future.

“Right now we are just getting out feet wet with this radical new format,” she said. “But I’m sure we’ll be making modifications as we move along.”

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