I had lunch with Oodle CEO Craig Donato yesterday. Among other interesting things we discussed was the fact that “classifieds” no longer means anything, if it ever did, to consumers. There are the categories: jobs, cars, homes, dating, pets, etc. And there are buyers and sellers and ads for items like bikes and drum sets and cars and apartments. But what Donato told me was that in focus groups the abstract category “classifieds” didn’t really have any meaning for people.
People know Craigslist, people know Google. The former is a “place” you find stuff. The latter is a way to find things.
Donato’s conclusion sort of dovetails with the theme of my talk at the ICMA conference in Amsterdam last week: the product that you think you’re selling online doesn’t exist. Or perhaps more accurately, the online product you have has been superseded. I framed it as “rethinking your product to compete more effectively online.”
Traditional media categories such as TV affiliates, radio stations, newspaper advertising and yellow pages are quickly disappearing online, where the distinctions that exist in the real world don’t matter as much. TV affiliates can host directory sites with video, directories can offer classifieds and so on.
Hybrid products are increasingly emerging that combine classifieds, directory listings and other features. They straddle traditional media and advertising categories and thereby potentially offer more utility to their users. Some examples from traditional yellow pages publishers are:
Then there are LiveDeal, Local.com, Microsoft Expo, Facebook, MySpace and others that are combining features and categories. The bottom line is that publishers need to see their online products in terms of evolving use cases rather than historical definitions.