Tribune’s Recycler: Back to the Drawing Board

Recycler.com, The Tribune Co’s erstwhile Craigslist killer, is going back to the drawing board, having suffered mediocre sales and usage since expanding to 14 markets in May 2005.

“If you build a model that assumes revenue from upsells and sponsor link revenue, you’ll be disappointed,” said Tom Finke, director of corporate development at Tribune Interactive, in comments blogged by Rob Runett at the NAA Connections conference in Orlando February 20-22.

To be sure, Tribune basically kept the formula that made The Recycler a success: free ads for consumers, and cheap $8 ads for corporate entities, with lots of upsells. Online, however, hasn’t worked. The combination of Craigslist’s free offerings, unfamilarity with the product outside of LA, and the absence of a complementary (and revenue generating) print product has hurt Tribune’s expansionary efforts. This despite extensive promotion in the print paper, deep integration with Tribune Interactive’s verticals, including Cars.com, apartments.com and ShopLocal; and a neat feature allowing users to compare ads posted on other websites.