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GIVE IT UP FOR THE CLASSIFIED GUYS

Dynamic duo brings wit, wisdom to classified sections everywhere
There is no Ph.D. for experts in buying and selling via the classifieds, but if there were, both Duane "Cash" Holze and Todd "Carry" Holze would have one. The two brothers have not only published a book on the how-to's of maneuvering in the classified market, but they also write a weekly column on the subject, which, since it became syndicated last March, has been added to 115 newspapers across the United States and Canada.

In the only humor column in the country specifically geared to classifieds, Cash and Carry (also known as The Classified Guys) have not only discovered a niche, but a niche in a market that accounts for a big chunk of advertising revenue for most newspapers.

"Newspapers get up to 55% of their revenue from the classifieds, but it is one of the sections that gets the least amount of attention-until it flounders," Cash claimed. "Then publishers ask, 'What happened? Why aren't we getting the revenue from the classifieds?' So really, our goal in putting this column out-as much as we want to keep it entertaining-is to make sure it is geared toward helping newspapers attract a young audience-the audience they are looking for-to the classified section."

Attracting audiences is easy for their pair. Lauded by participating newspapers, Cash and Carry are gaining popularity around the country because of their humorous content and good-natured ribbing.

"(The column) is designed to be entertaining with just a little hint of advice," Carry said. "That is the draw of our column in the newspaper industry, because people read for entertainment." But who reads the classifieds for entertainment? According to The Classified Guys, that's the point. Prior to the launch of their column on August 20, 2000, there was no humorous element to draw people into the classifieds.

"Now they open the paper and they read Ann Landers, they read the comics and then they read The Classified Guys for that dose of laughter," Carry continued. "We pull them right into the classified section, allowing newspapers to cash in on that driving-the-readership aspect."

And The Classified Guys' ability to draw readers has created notable interest.

"All our clients come back with wonderful statements about the column and the tremendous response," Cash said. "One guy had an advertiser in his paper report back that customers were coming to him with the advertisement and the column in hand."

According to Carry, roughly 85% of the newspapers that receive The Classified Guys' column run it with advertisements posted directly beneath it. Many newspapers also use the column to highlight each vertical of the classified section.

"There is one paper that moves our column around in its classified section every couple of months to promote different areas of it, to drive readership," Cash explained. "They put a note on the front of the classified section telling people where to find us."

If you write it, they will come
The syndication of The Classified Guys' column is growing by leaps and bounds, averaging a new newspaper sign-up every two to three days.

The Classified Guys say there is a reason--aside from the quality of their column-for that rapid growth.

"People have taken notice of our column because there is nothing for the classified section," Cash said. "And that is our goal in trying to develop The Classified Guys; it is a means to help newspapers attract attention to their classified sections.

" We've been able to give newspapers a column that not only is about classifieds, specifically for the classified section, but we have been able to give them something they can use to generate a new revenue base by pulling in a new advertiser," Carry explained.

It's not just business, it's personal
For Cash and Carry, the classifieds are a way of life. They believe their column is an extension of their passion for classifieds.

"For us, the classifieds have always been a hobby," explained Carry. "We're forever buying and selling stuff, because we enjoy it."

"With classifieds, we can buy something, enjoy it for awhile and sell it and get our money-or more-back," he added. "We see it as an opportunity to do the things you want to do without paying retail price. If you want to scuba dive, it is an opportunity to do it very inexpensively and usually recoup the money back out of it."

In fact, Cash says, he and his brother encourage people not to hold back when contemplating a classified purchase, so long as you are well informed about the product.

"Every purchase is an emotional one, so don't hold back on the things you want," Cash insisted. "Just be smart about how you buy it. So, if you really want the BMW, a frugal person might say 'Buy the Honda Civic,' but buying that expensive car really satisfies an emotional need. Just be smart about how you buy it and be able to turn around in five years and sell it for the same price."

But how does one shop smart? How do you know if you are getting a good deal?

"That is what led us into our book, our passion for the classifieds and teaching other people how to do what we've been able to do," Carry said.

Good-bye Corporate America
Carry worked for 10 years in engineering and quality assurance for a large manufacturer of aerospace components, working with groups such as the FAA and NASA. Unable to shake the feeling that his job didn't fit his personality, Carry had a breakthrough writing experience that changed everything.

"I was really wanting to do something different," Carry explained. "While I was heading to Germany on company business, I started thinking about my passion for the classified industry. I wrote the manuscript for the book on the trip there and the trip back."

The idea for the book-later titled 50% OFF! How to Find Great Deals-was born. Upon his return, Carry shared the manuscript with Cash, who, at the time, was working as a design and applications engineer. Cash liked the manuscript so much that he quit his job to help get the book published and perhaps add a few tips of his own.

Carry followed Cash's lead and quit his job, and that risk soon paid off: the book was published in October 1999. "After we went on a book tour throughout New England and got into Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks and Amazon, we knew we needed to head in a new direction," Carry said. "We were approaching newspapers to sell them our book at a premium, and we went into The Danbury (Conn.) News-Times. "

From conversations we had with them, we developed the idea for a column, pitched them the idea and they loved it," Cash explained.

Paul Evans, director of new business development at The News-Times, asked The Classified Guys to develop a prototype. It was so well received that a request was made for more. "

They liked it so much, that I think within three weeks of talking about the idea, the column came out in the paper," Carry enthused.

Equipped with the ideas they had about the classified marketplace and not much more, The Classified Guys began to write.

"We had ideas about the marketplace that we knew prior to the launch of the column, "Carry said, "one of they being that people want to be entertained, to read entertaining things, so we designed our column to be entertaining."

While they may not have done market research at the outset, Cash and Carry immediately realized the benefit of learning as much as possible about the classified market. "

What we found as soon as the column came out and a few people saw it…the look on their faces immediately told us that we were onto something," Carry explained. "At that point, we dove into the market research: NAA research statistics, newspaper distribution statistics…all of a sudden the engineering sides of us kicked in."

The Classified Guys spoke to literally hundreds of newspaper executives for advice on the do's and don'ts as well as what newspapers would be looking for in a column. "

In some cases, they (newspaper executives) didn't even know what they wanted for their newspaper, but they told us what their concerns were," Carry said. "We started tying those ideas into the column and designing the product for their needs."

Cash asserted that newspaper executives' concerns about the changing classified market played a big role in their goals for the column.

"Some people are worried about the Internet," Cash said. "Obviously, with today's economy, newspapers are struggling with revenue. These are serious issues to a newspaper, and that was the whole purpose of our column: to begin to help newspapers solidify their classified sections."

Clearly, the column is hitting its mark. "It doesn't take a lot of selling, to be honest," Carry said. "People look at the column and say, 'This is a fantastic idea. I want to buy it,' and we're honored by that."

The syndicated world
It was decided relatively quickly that syndicating the column would be a good idea; however, it took a few months for that to come together. The Classified Guys spent that time honing their writing abilities and simplifying their service.

"We put up business systems to handle the volume of papers," Cash said, "so from our end, the growth spurt wasn't difficult to manage."

Among the details simplified to make things easier for clients was the column itself, which is available in a range of sizes from nine-and-a-half to 13 inches and can be quickly downloaded as a prepared PDF from the member portion of The Classified Guys' Web site.

Each week, the column includes a tip of the week and a portion called "From the Guys."

"In the beginning, there was a consumer spotlight which dealt more with Web sites," Cash said. "Now we've evolved into a lighter conversation between Cash and Carry, which you now know as -From the Guys."

However, Cash and Carry aren't the only ones cracking jokes in the column, which also features two humorous paragraph-long stories and funny ads readers have submitted. "

The most fun we have is getting the submissions from readers," Carry said. "We just had one come in today that said, 'Keep up the laughs. Hope you enjoy this ad: My wife says too many pets, something must go. Free to good home: one wife, blond, 5-foot-9, 120 lbs., sometimes answers to Janice.' We get stuff like that every day."

When a newspaper signs up for The Classified Guy's service, it receives a password to the "member" section of their Web site. In the member section, one can download publicity information like teaser ads, ROP ads, billboard artwork and honor box artwork. "

As part of signing up for our column, we offer some standard promotional items," Carry said. "We offer a 10-day publicity campaign to introduce our column to the readers before it debuts. Normally this consists of five days of teaser ads and five days of ROP ads that we supply and that can be run in the editorial section to let people know the column will be coming out soon. This starts to steer people to the classified section.'

' Newspapers will billboard campaigns to promote their products may find the extra items such as The Classified Guys' billboard artwork particularly helpful in promoting the new column, and, in the process, advertising their own classified section. "

On top of that, we'll do a variety of promotional activities," Carry said. "We include it in our service, because it is helpful to both parties," Cash elaborated.

"We encourage anyone to come up with a creative campaign for their newspaper. It promotes their classifieds and us, and it is mutually beneficial."

Just one such creative idea was suggested by The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, which was seeking a creative way to promote and brand its classified section. Cash and Carry appeared at The Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn., as emcees for the sold-out George Carlin concert.

Roughly 6,000 people attended the August 18, 2001, concert, and it was a huge success for all parties involved. Standing in front of a lobby billboard of themselves, The Classified Guys greeted people entering the theater and signed autographs on copies of their column.

"We went on stage, said a few words and branded the name of the classified section to the crowd, and then we introduced the acts of Dennis Blair and George Carlin," Carry said. "It was fun."

Is there a future in show business for The Classified Guys?

"I'm not sure we'll turn into actors," Cash laughed. "But papers are looking for ways to brand their sections, so I think this is something we will probably explore a little more."

Both Cash and Carry say they are always willing to consider any promotional opportunity presented by one of their member newspapers. "

We have a willingness to work with all the member newspapers that carry our column, to help them with promoting their classified sections," Carry said. "

Whether they want to do a theater event or something else, we are definitely willing to do it and see how we can help them."

Modern Renaissance men
True modern Renaissance men, Cash and Carry do it all: the writing, layout, promotion, distribution and accounting. They are self-syndicating geniuses, or workaholics, depending on how you look at it.

"We do the whole thing," Carry said. "Everything from the billing cycle to distributing the column to our members. And we make sure we're available to our customers for a long range of hours."

"We do have a little help, Cash confessed. "We pass things through editors and other people before it goes out to make sure it is print-worthy and that its inline with the presentation we are trying to give in the column. Carry's wife helps us out with accounting, but the rest of it is us."

Even though they have more flexible schedules, the workdays for Cash and Carry are longer then they were when they worked in the corporate arena.

"I was rereading our bio this morning, and it says 'Cash and Carry are the hardest working guys in the classifieds,'" Cash said. I think originally it was a nice promotional plug, but it has become very true."

While they admit to having benefited from a market hungry for their work, Cash and Carry attribute most of their success to that dedication.

"We put a lot of time and energy into the materials we give our members," Cash said.

"It all goes back to doing something you really enjoy and how rewarding that becomes," Carry added.

"A Classified Act"


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