History of Classified Ads

Classified advertising is a form of advertising most commonly known in newspapers, periodicals, TV, radios and the internet. The ads may be charged or distributed free of charge. Typically, these ads in newspapers are short as they are charged per letter, line or column. As the name suggests, classified ads are classified into classes or categories. The following is a brief history of classified ads.

Public Notice Carving

egyptian public carvings

Wall With Hieroglyphs In Egypt

This is the oldest form of classified ads. In 2000 BC, Ancient Egyptians invented outdoor advertising where they carved public notices into steel. They also used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters.

At around 59 BC, the Roman Empire published Acta Diurna (Daily Acts) or government announced bulletins as ordered by the Roman general, Julius Caesar. They carved the notices in stone or metal (as these were the commonly used materials) and posted them in public places.

Handwritten Newssheets

In imperial China, court officials used government-produced newssheets, called Tipao. This was during the late Han dynasty. Tipao, which literally meant “reports from the official residences,” were a publication issued by both local and central governments in imperial China. The publications date as early as 206 BC – 220 BC (Han Dynasty).

Newssheets were handwritten on silk and strictly read by government officials only.

Public Poster Ads

The first handwritten notices date back to the 15th century. These notices appeared in public places nailed on posts and walls in England.

In the mid 1600s, notices for lost property became very common. Also, it is during this period when the handbill emerged in England. The handbill was a small printed ad, notice or announcement distributed by hand.

Newspaper Classifieds

boston news letter and jamaica courant

The Boston New-Letter and The Weekly Jamaica Courant

The original newspaper ad was published in 1704 in the Boston News-Letter. The ad was an announcement seeking a buyer for an Oyster Bay, Long Island, Estate. This ad marked the birth of newspaper classifieds. About 14 years later (in 1718), the weekly Jamaica Courant followed course in Kingston.

By the year 2007, about 6,580 daily newspapers in the world selling around 395 copies a day existed. The newspaper industry continued to grow until 2008 when the entire world was hit by an economic recession. The worldwide economic crisis, coupled with the rapid growth of internet-based alternatives, saw a serious decline in newspaper advertising and circulation. In fact, most papers closed business while others cut back operations.

With the continued increase in online classifieds, newspaper’s revenues from classified ads continued to decrease. In 2007, classified advertising at some of the largest newspaper chains dropped by 14-20 percent while traffic to classified websites grew by 23 percent.

According to NAA, between 2002 and 2012, classified ads declined by 71 percent (from $15,898 to $4,626 in revenue). The decline was mostly attributed to the emergence of web-based classified alternatives.

Online Classifieds

In 1995, the internet disruption of classified ads started. Two new companies were established this year: AdOne and Craigslist.

Although very few people recall this, AdOne is one of the oldest classified websites in the world.

Craigslist is another site credited with the popularization of online classifieds. Craigslist is a classified ad website where the ads are classified into different sections. Today, there are hundreds of alternatives and free online classifieds to choose from.

Social Classifieds

Many social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, and others offer a platforms for social classified ads. These social networks enable their users to solicit sales for products and services within the social network.

In May 2007, about 3 years after Facebook launched, they introduced the Facebook marketplace that allowed users to post free classified ads. The ads fell within the following categories: Housing, For sale, Jobs, and Other.

In March 2009, they launched a new version of its Marketplace application. Oodle, an online marketplace based out of California, powered this new version.

Classifieds on Mobile Phones / Tablets

mobile classifieds

Top Mobile Classifieds Sites

With the introduction of smart phones and tables posting and searching on online classified platforms became a growing trend. Currently, there are over 300 mobile apps for classified advertising on the iPhone and Android alone.

Some classified sites such as FiWiClassifieds and ClassifiedAds are responsive. Responsive websites adopts to any device no matter the size or orientation.

After seeing all the changes that occurred, things have certainly gotten easier and more convenient for consumers of this industry. The question being ask now is… Whats next?

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. To see everything we spoke about illustrated in a fun and unique infographic, visit our Evolution of Classifieds post. We hope this was informative and interesting for you. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.


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