Britain is a nation of buyers and sellers, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the pages of LOOT, the publication that has made millions by printing thousands of classified ads every day. Beginning as a London-only publication, it has branched out to become the de facto all-round classified publication in 28 locations, mainly in the South East, but now reaching up to the conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester.
Its Web presence began 18 months ago and now allows you to look through any of its 28 publications, the day after publication. The Web is refreshed with the new daily intake at around 2:00am each morning.
WHAT'S THE FUSS ABOUT?
Many now believe that classified ads on the Web will have a major impact on existing printed ads. Perhaps complementary, but in some cases replacing print offerings. LOOT being the UK leader has a major interest in providing a Web offering to complement its paid-for paper publications.
The big bonus to Net users is that if you know what you want, you can search for it very precisely online. It's much easier (and cheaper) to use a search engine to find it than nip down the newsagent and wade through the publication. The LOOT site also offers the benefit of amalgamating ads from all its publications, which totals about 70,000 ads a day.
The site is now in its fifth incarnation, which has come about through the large amount of feedback received from readers and advertisers. Though not a printed publication online, it does offer easy access to the sections that appear in any of the printed publications and allows users to place ads (on the Web and in print).
Competitors should note that on the design front, the team has moved towards a simpler design with each new version. This means no frames, minimal graphics and a simple colour scheme. The site is available to users of any browser, however old. It has also been optimised for speed of search and gives fast returns on requests that LOOT believes beats any competitor.
HOW DO THEY DO THAT?
LOOT already had a strong IT team to run its publication and used some resources to start the development of the site nearly two years ago. It says it has worked closely with Microsoft, but has developed its own team and wrote the software for the search engine which allows searching by location and item.
Ads prepared for the print publications are fed into the in-house Eagle system and are transferred to the Web on the evening of their publication at 2:00am so that if you are looking at the Web on a Tuesday you are looking at Monday's listings which were available to the public from around 6:30am on Monday.
The site is run on two Compaq servers which are linked to ISP company Netcom via a 2Mbps leased line. By keeping all 70,000 ads in memory, search time for users is kept to a minimum. The day's publications are not archived and disappear with each new daily publication ensuring high daily traffic rates.
WHAT'S THE BUSINESS ANGLE?
LOOT MD Graham Tolhurst says the Web site brings in new online readers to the publication. It currently gets 3,500 visitors a day - a figure said to be growing at 10 per cent weekly. It also stimulates ads coming into the publications with 1,300 emails a day arriving direct from email or from the form available on the Web.
WHAT'S IN THE PIPELINE?
Depending on the growth of online users, LOOT says it plans to sell immediate access to ads by year end. At the moment it is looking at pushing content or selected content by email to customers or alternatively offering access to subscribe to such a service. It says it has little faith in the idea of micropayments or "pay-per-view" options. It states that Microsoft has taken an interest in its search engine so it could make money by resale.
LOOT plans to publish postcodes in ads to allow search by location.
Launch: Early 96
Traffic: 3,500 visitors a day
Size: 70,000 classified ads a day
Hardware: Compaq servers linked to Netcom over a 2Mbps line via a Cisco router
Software: Microsoft Frontpage has been used in the design of pages; uses Microsoft's IIS server
Target Audience: Anyone buying and selling goods in the regions specified
Competitors: Adhunter, niche market classified sites.
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