A system and method for providing classified ads over the Internet. The system includes a plurality of regional newspaper World Wide Web servers, and associated newspaper classified ad generators; a central classified ad information collection and distribution facility, and a central World Wide Web application server facility, all connected to the Internet such that Internet users can connect to the Newspaper Web server and central Web application server facility to search for and obtain classified ads. The Web application server facility includes one of more application servers and one or more newspaper classified ad database servers. The system apparatus features elements which enable Internet users to enter the system at the newspaper Web server and subsequently search for classified ads held in the ad databases at the database servers thorugh the application servers at the central Wed application facility. Additionally, the system features elements to enable users to search for the newspaper classified ads at the database servers using a client-server method that includes a common gateway interface procedure. Additionally, the system ad generator includes elements for automatically generating ad records for inclusion at the database servers of the central Web application facility which are derived from the newspaper print ad feed. Still further, the system includes elements at the collection and distribution facility for automatically collecting ads produced at the newspaper ad generators and providing them to the database servers on a scheduled bases. The method features steps for supporting the common-gateway-interface searching procedures which can be carried out in multiple stages. Additionally the method features steps for automatically generating classified ad record information in substantially numerical form which is pre-sorted to support improved speed in search the ad record databases.