Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s smartphone classified guide connects advertisers to audience

By J. David Kennedy

Smart devices and mobile technology are changing advertising. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HSA) therefore created the “Open House Guide Keyword Programme” to fuse traditional print advertising with smartphone technology, making ads more mobile friendly. 

As the “Open House” name implies, this initiative began targeting the real estate classified ad market.

The programme was designed to allow those posting classified real estate ads to capitalise on the broad readership of the printed Sunday newspaper.

It bridges the gap between the growing number of readers who are tech-savvy and “old school” real estate agents who lack the mastery of the technology needed to reach these readers.

Here’s how the programme works: 

  • A real estate agent places an ad for a listed home in the HSA Sunday real estate section. 
  • They are provided with a unique mobile keyword for that listing in the Open House Guide.
  • Each keyword is linked to a mobile-friendly Web site with a Multiple Listing Service record of the home listed in the newspaper, thanks to a partnership with the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
  • When readers text the keyword to the mobile shortcode, they receive a link to a mobile Web site that provides colour photos of the home, maps, and information on nearby schools, shopping, and recreational facilities.

    The mobile site also allows readers to e-mail, text, or call the listing real estate agent; connect through social media sites; and estimate payments with a mortgage calculator.
  • The program also enables advertisers — i.e., listing agents — to capture leads for listings that readers have visited. The programme thus creates an interaction between the advertiser and the reader that provides a more in-depth experience for home seekers. It also benefits the advertiser in several ways.

The programme has been successful and allowed HSA to connect traditional real estate advertisers (typically Baby Boomers) with younger, tech-savvy homebuyers (often Millennials).

Usually only larger national firms that have invested thousands of dollars can offer this level of technology. However, HSA now provides this service even for advertisers who may have just one listing.

The best indicator of success is that approximately 70% of all weekly real estate listings are now part of the programme. In fact, it has been so successful that the HSA recently expanded it to the employment and auto ad categories, and is now working on an obituary application, too:

  • Employment: HSA now has mobile keywords in about 60% of display employment ads. Job seekers who text the keyword to HSA receive a short form to fill out that is then sent directly to the client (i.e., the advertiser).

    Alternatively, the keyword can link the job seeker directly to a company’s mobile-friendly job board or online application. 

  • Auto: Mobile keywords in the auto classifieds are actually bringing back revenue that had been lost to free online sites like Craigslist. Including a keyword in the ads allows readers to view more photos of the vehicle.

    HSA is again combining the reach and strength of its print product with the ease and convenience of a mobile device to recapture lost revenue.

  • Obits: Finally, HSA is currently working with an online obituary site to include a keyword in the print obituary notice that will allow readers to leave messages directly on an online guest book.

About J. David Kennedy

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