Placing online classified ads has recently become increasingly popular among newspaper customers.

Newspapers have seen a tremendous increase in revenue when using Ad-Owl, an online ad-placing system by TownNews.com.

In the last year, for example, 126 newspapers using Ad-Owl took in more than $5.5 million in classified advertising. That compares with 113 newspapers and $4.1 million in revenue in the equivalent 12-month period the prior year.

“People embraced Ad-Owl well at the beginning,” said Jackie Maunder, Online/Inside Sales Supervisor for the Missoulian, a Lee Enterprises daily newspaper in Missoula, Mont.

The Missoulian has been using Ad-Owl to accept classified ad orders online since 2005. Since then, they have been able to cut back one full-time classified sales representative (CSR).

“We have less CSR staff than we used to,” Maunder said. “We’re not losing calls and don’t have the problem of people not getting through.”

The Missoulian promotes the system heavily during holidays as well, assuring their customers that they can still submit ads while the office is closed.

“Ad-Owl allows our customers to place their ads when it’s convenient for them, vs. matching their schedules to our daily work hours,” said Mark Roby, Publisher for The Public Opinion in Watertown, S.D.

The Public Opinion, a United Communications Corporation daily newspaper, has become a “24 x 7 shop” since implementing an online order entry system. “They can place the ad when they want, using their credit card to pay for it,” Roby said. “Ad-Owl’s a must-have tool for today’s competitive business climate.”

Newspapers without such technology are missing out, says Kubas Consulting. “At many newspapers, one cannot fully complete a classified liner print ad transaction online,” wrote Ed Strapagiel in his July 2008 article for Kubas Consultants, entitled “The Next Newspaper Ad Sales Model. “Almost no newspapers have any way for an advertiser to buy a print display ad online, and almost no newspapers offer an online print ad creation tool for display.”

The fact that Ad-Owl does show real-time previews of the ads is one of the reasons The Pueblo Chieftain, an independently owned daily in Pueblo, Colo., has been so successful with Ad-Owl.

“People are buying more upsells — boxes, borders and images — than when they call in because they are able to create their own ad and see it,” said Lorna Jackson, classified manager for The Pueblo Chieftain.

“Ad-Owl has been a necessary and helpful tool to help us reach an increasing audience who prefers on-line ad order entry,” agreed Mike Gugliotto, vice president and COO for Pioneer Newspapers, Inc. “It also has opened doors to attract non-traditional newspaper classified advertisers through options of online-only ad placement options with upsells to print.”

By accepting ads online and processing the orders in real-time, newspapers are able to better accommodate the busy schedules of their readers. Submitters can place ads when classified call centers are closed or place ads during the day without the hassle of waiting on hold for a classified agent to become available.

“Ad-Owl has proven to be an effective and affordable solution for our newspapers,” said Gary Blackburn, senior publisher for the Princeton Daily Clarion, a daily Brehm Communications newspaper in Princeton, Ind. “If you are not online with a classified solution, you are missing some revenue.”

(Kelly Hendershot is the marketing coordinator at TownNews.com. She may be reached at khendershot@townnews.com.)