Archive for the ‘Classifieds’ Category

Power of Local: Craigslist Top Search Term

March 20, 2009

picture-201Hitwise is reporting that “Craigslist was the top search term” last week. According to the blog post just out:

For the first time in three years, searches for ‘craigslist’ surpassed ‘myspace,’ highlighting the increasing popularity of online classifieds during the economic downturn.U.S. searches on the term “craigslist” have increased 105 percent for the week ending March 14, 2009, compared with the same week last year. This is the first time that the query has been the top search term in the United States, having surpassed the term “myspace,” which had been the top term since March 11, 2006.

More from Hitwise:

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What are people doing on Craigslist?

  • Looking for jobs
  • Selling their stuff
  • Looking for cheaper/used versions of things they might have bought new but for the economy
  • Maybe bartering

As the post suggests, this is about the economy but it’s also about the strength of the Craigslist brand and the fact that Craigslist continues to “work” for people.

And if this doesn’t illustrate to people the power and importance of “local” (offline), nothing probably will.

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Facebook Marketplace: First Real CL Challenger

March 3, 2009

I spoke last week with Craig Donato, CEO of Oodle, about the company’s new deal with Facebook, which went live earlier today. It’s the latest in a string of impressive Oodle deals that also include AOL, Wal-Mart and MySpace. Notwithstanding MySpace, in my opinion, this is the first real challenger to Craigslist that I’ve seen in the US market.

Facebook marketplace

I’m not going to be able to do justice to all the nuances and features. I’ll just say that it’s very thoughtfully designed and takes full advantage of the social architecture of Facebook. For example, listings that I post will show up in my news feed and my network will immediately discover that I’m selling my washing machine or giving away my puppy, etc. (push classifieds).

product profile page

There’s also significant integration with charitable causes. Each product I list gets a page and so does each charity to whom I want some or all of the sales proceeds to go. It’s not mandatory but this will be a popular feature of the site and a differentiator to be sure.

Over time these charity profiles will become more filled with merchandise, to the point that some people might start shopping on the profile page of a charitable cause they support.
Selling options

The ability to “sell it,” “sell it for a cause,” “give it away” or “ask for it” is relatively unique — especially Ask for It.

There’s also a more conventional classifieds view and experience available featuring search and category browse functionality. Again, however, Oodle has taken advantage of the structure and culture of Facebook (i.e., sort by friends). (Facebook or MySpace wasn’t the first to introduce “social classifieds,” it was actually Microsoft Expo which was shuttered awhile ago.)

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I’ve been having a kind of running conversation with Craig Donato about the nature of classifieds for the past three years or more. I think they did a very nice job with this integration. Right now the listings are exclusive to Facebook but over time more Oodle network listings will make it in there and, presumably, the Facebook listings will go out to the broader Oodle syndicate.

Craigslist remains a vital and successful site but I could see Facebook marketplace peeling off some users and creating a large alternative marketplace. Why do I say that? Because I can imagine my wife using it — she’s on Facebook often playing Scrabble and it would be quite easy for her to simply post there what she might have posted elsewhere.

But as Craig Donato points out (do you have to be named Craig to run a classifieds site?) the thing that makes classifieds sites sink or swim is critical mass, both of users and listings. Facebook certainly has the former and we’ll see if it develops the latter.

AOL + Oodle = AOL Classifieds

February 23, 2009

Oodle as become the vendor/partner of choice it would appear for third parties seeking to add or beef up classifieds — a missed opportunity for eBay/Kijij. Today AOL launched a new classifieds site: Classifieds.AOL.com. There’s also a Canadian specific site at Classifieds.AOL.ca.

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It’s all free of course. Here are interesting bits from the release:

Developed in partnership with Oodle, which operates the largest network of classifieds services in the U.S., buyers can easily find the best deals with access to more than 40 million listings aggregated from more than 80,000 different sites. In addition, AOL Classifieds links consumers directly to classifieds listings on other properties within the AOL network including AOL Autos, AOL Jobs, AOL Personals, and AOL Real Estate.

This new site becomes part of what the company is calling the “AOL Local Network,” which claims 54 million uniques. The lion’s share of that traffic is MapQuest.

For its part Oodle has 250 partners, including Facebook, Wal-Mart, MySpace, Comcast and now AOL, among others. These sites all are distribution outlets for Oodle listings, as well as new sources of content for the network.

And without Craigslist:

(I had initially used the “.com” URL for Craigslist so Compete under-represented its traffic. Now I’ve corrected. Thanks for the catch Jeremy.)

AOL, which doesn’t get enough credit these days for much of what it does, is developing interesting properties with third party content (e.g., When.com with Zvents). It’s also doing very interesting things with some of it other sites, such as MapQuest and Bebo.

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Update: Vast CEO Kevin Laws emailed me and said that the charts above are inaccurate. He says that most of Vast’s business is white label and shows up as traffic to the partner site. He also reminded me that Vast powers AOL autos.

Oodle Traffic Up, Raises More Cash

February 10, 2009

picture-17Oodle announced what may be its fourth round of funding: $5.6 million from existing funders Greylock Partners, JAFCO Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.

Oodle also said that it has crossed the 10 million monthly uniques traffic threshold.

Oodle has created an impressive network of partners, which include Walmart, MySpace and Facebook. The company has positioned itself in some respects as the anti-Craigslist, seeking to improve upon or compensate for what it perceives to be the deficiencies in Craigslist.

I also don’t believe Oodle has any competitors at its level of scale among “horizontal” sites (except, when I first posted yesterday I competely forgot about eBay’s Kijiji):


This chart is undoubtedly inaccurate but shows trends directionally.

Community Site Tries Membership Model

February 2, 2009

Tim Cohn points out an interesting new community (listings) site with a social conscience: Buythechange. The site allows businesses to promote themselves and allows members to buy, sell and barter stuff and to promote events.

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The idea of giving away a portion of fees or dues to non-profits or charities is nothing new. What’s interesting to me is the effort to support the site with membership/subscriber fees.

Over the long term a site like this can succeed if it gains “critical mass” in a single market and then expands. It must have a very lean cost structure and take a long term view because more established sites like Craigslist, Oodle and others in the local segment are going to be sufficient for the majority for quite some time.

Twitter Business Model Contest

January 30, 2009

picture-38Silicon Alley Insider is doing something fascinating. They’re soliciting business model ideas/presentations for Twitter. They’ve posted a number of the leading entry decks. Here is the list and links to the individual slide decks:

Why this is fascinating to me:

  • People care enough/are intrigued enough to think through these issues for Twitter and make these presentations
  • The fact that there’s an online culture that enables this (that you can solicit the community’s ideas for your business — nothing new but still kind of amazing)
  • The winner(s) will likely get jobs or consulting gigs at Twitter

Oodle Adds Comcast to Network

January 15, 2009

Oodle is now providing classifieds listings to Comcast.net (although it appears to be limited to pets and tickets right now):

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The other categories at the bottom of this graphic are from other partners and Comcast’s own Vehix.com.

Other major Oodle distribution partners include: Wal-Mart, Facebook, MySpace, Cox and others.

Oodle Wins Facebook Marketplace

December 3, 2008

Earlier today TechCrunch jumped the gun on the deal between Oodle and Facebook. I’ve been buried under calls and other work and so am only getting to this now.

Here’s the blurb/notification from Facebook:

Oodle today announced that it will power Marketplace, an application for online classifieds on Facebook. The application will be integrated into the site similar to other third-party apps.

I spoke earlier this morning with Oodle CEO Craig Donato about it and where it may be going. Donato is very thoughtful about the entire subject of classifieds and how they should evolve and we had a wide ranging conversation.

First, revenues for Facebook are not a big consideration in the early implementation. Presumably Facebook will get some revenue from this at some point — and could ultimately get a decent chunk of money. Oodle by contrast will immediately generate additional revenue from the expanded reach and more views/clicks on commercial listings though Facebook. The deal won’t go live until next year.

Originally there was going to be no announcement until it was ready to go live but the earlier TechCrunch piece — and my resulting note asking Donato about it — prompted the companies to pre-announce the new Marketplace.

Oodle currently powers classifieds on MySpace (the sponsored links are from Google):

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Donato told me that the experience would look different from what exists today and that the MySpace site would also evolve. As one might expect there will be a heavy “social” element in the new Marketplace on Facebook. The chief benefit of classifieds on Facebook is the increased “transparency” that comes from being able to view the profile of a would-be buyer or seller. The personal network is of mixed value.

Donato went further saying that in many cases you don’t want to buy or sell stuff from/to your friends. But the ability to investigate someone who wants to come over and test drive your car brings a level of trust and security to a potential transaction, not otherwise possible on an anonymous site like Craigslist.

Classifieds are a natural for online communities and the community angle here (beyond the increased transparency) will likely bring a WOM layer, which currently exists inefficiently among friends in email, into potential transactions. For example, I could query my network about places to live or who might be interested in two tickets to see concert X, and so on. One can envision many use cases.

By adding Facebook, Oodle adds another marquee distribution partner to its already impressive network.

When I proposed the idea of listing fees for the Marketplace to Donato he said that he felt that (private party) listings were the content (and should be free). Rather the trick is, in Donato’s mind, to carefully integrate professional sellers into the overall listings mix. Here’s a close-up of a sample listings page from the current MySpace classifieds site that does this (shaded listings are professional):

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It will be interesting to see whether the great potential of this new Oodle-Facebook partnership can be realized and how the social features play into the underlying classifieds model. I continue to be very bullish on the idea of a central classifieds marketplace on Facebook. But we’ll see in Q1 what shows up.

eBay Announces Acquisitions, Layoffs

October 7, 2008

I’ve been not paying much attention to the news today — except for the stock market losses — but saw that eBay had made two acquisitions and announced that it would cut 10% of its workforce.

eBay Inc. today announced two acquisitions that significantly extend the company’s leadership position in online payments and classifieds. In payments, the company is acquiring the U.S.-based online payments business Bill Me Later® for approximately $820 million in cash and approximately $125 million in outstanding options. In classifieds, the company has acquired Denmark’s leading online classifieds site dba.dk and vehicles site bilbasen.dk for approximately $390 million in cash.

The Bill Me Later buy helps bolster it’s dominance in online payments (PayPal). And the Denmark classifieds acquisition is consistent with what eBay said several weeks ago it would be doing: 

Jacob Aqraou, general manager of eBay’s global classified business, said he expects the company will take over a “fair” number of companies in the next six months or so . . . He said eBay’s strategy was to target classified-ad sites that have leading positions in geographies and industry segments in which eBay doesn’t currently compete . . . Mr. Aqraou pointed to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia as regional priorities, adding that the first in a series of acquisitions could be announced within the next several weeks.

Given the worsening economy, will eBay continue to make acquisitions as it promised or will it scale back? Of course a recession is a great time to buy if you have the cash.

Craigslist, eBay Top Paid, Organic Search

September 17, 2008

Speaking of eBay, it was at or near the top of Hitwise’s highest volume search terms in August:

Also note MapQuest on the paid side and Craigslist on the organic side. Very interesting.

What do you think is the explanation behind the high ranking of eBay and Craigslist among organic search queries?

eBay Plans Classifieds Buying Spree

September 17, 2008

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that eBay plans to scoop up classifieds sites around the globe:

Jacob Aqraou, general manager of eBay’s global classified business, said he expects the company will take over a “fair” number of companies in the next six months or so . . . He said eBay’s strategy was to target classified-ad sites that have leading positions in geographies and industry segments in which eBay doesn’t currently compete . . . Mr. Aqraou pointed to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia as regional priorities, adding that the first in a series of acquisitions could be announced within the next several weeks.

I’m also guessing that mobile classifieds platforms are on the list, especially the EU-based Mobiya. eBay owns a range of classifieds properties in the US and Europe, most notably Kijiji. It owns approximately 25% of Craiglist but the companies are in the middle of litigation over alleged attempts by Craigslist management to dilute eBay’s voting rights.

Another potential eBay acquisition candidate would be Oodle, but given the rationale expressed above — [targets would be in] “geographies and industry segments in which eBay doesn’t currently compete — that’s somewhat less likely.

The claim in the article is that eBay’s combined classifieds properties see 82 million monthly uniques on a global basis. If eBay does make good on its global consolidation plans, it emerges as a bigger “threat” to the newspaper classifieds business than does Craigslist (which has always just been a convenient scapegoat for chronic newspaper issues).

Resource: Local-20

August 12, 2008

Michael Bauer, who was a longtime part of Local Matters, has launched a site called Local-20. It’s a catalog of information and sites in different categories with Bauer’s commentary. The site is international in scope and provides lots of valuable information. Bauer has told me it’s a work in progress.

MySpace Classifieds, Now from Oodle

July 28, 2008

In a major coup for classifieds purveyor-aggregator Oodle, the company is now the source of MySpace classifieds. This replaces the old MySpace classifieds:

Oodle CEO Craig Donato’s blog post says that the Oodle Network now includes 200+ sites. Recently the company added Wal-Mart to that list. Oodle powers classifieds on Facebook too, but it’s not the only classifieds application.

MySpace still has a separate deal with SimplyHired in MySpace Careers.

Oodle has slowly and steadily been building it’s network to the point where it can offer a kind of “one stop shop” for advertisers/marketers/individuals seeking efficient distribution to the broadest possible online classifieds audience — beyond Craigslist.

NBCU Buys No.1 Local Site

July 7, 2008

Picture 1Some people could make a strong case that Craigslist is the number one local site online. However the top local site is probably Weather.com.

NBC Universal (and private equity) just bought that property and its cable channel parent from Landmark Communications for $3.5 billion. Landmark, which owns IP intelligence firm Digital Envoy, newspapers and classifieds properties, local TV affiliates and Q Interactive (formerly CoolSavings), had the makings of a great local ad network anchored by Weather.com. Alas . . . they’d probably rather have the cash. The Weather Channel had been for sale since January.

Weather.com has tons of geotargeted and contextual-local ad placements. It’s also got a mobile offering. All this is great news for NBC. Now what will the company do with it?

Newspapers: Irish Times and Ireland.com

June 30, 2008

It certainly helps if you own a killer domain like “Ireland.com.” UK based local search aficionado Dylan Fuller alerted me to the new Ireland.com, which is owned and operated by newspaper The Irish Times. Ireland.com used to be the Irish Times’ site, which it has now moved here.

The Times operates Ireland.com as a portal for all-things-Ireland. And it represents something of a model for newspapers that can branch out and diversify to offer other content and capabilities on secondary sites. In the case of Ireland.com, this is an additional distribution outlet for newspaper content and ads. It’s also going to be able to attract advertisers that might not advertise in the newspaper or on the newspaper site.

Over time, given the probable ranking of this site (domain + content), it’s likely to drive much more traffic that the newspaper site itself:

Ireland.com

Yahoo!’s Zawody Is Going to Craigslist

June 19, 2008

Yahoo!’s Jeremy Zawody is joining Craigslist as CTO. This is very interesting and a bit of a surprise.

Bad News, Good News for Newspapers

June 19, 2008

It’s mostly bad news. As MediaPost explains in some detail, classifieds were off nearly 25% in Q1. Online revenues grew just over 7%, while total print advertising revenues were off 14.3% (national, retail and classifieds). Both cyclical and structural factors are playing here.

On the semi-bright side, newspaper site traffic is growing (per Nielsen). And a new study under the title “When Advertising Works” from consumer research firm Yankelovich compared the effectiveness of traditional and digital media. According to a report in the NY Times, this is the bottom line:

When asked what kind of an impression the ad made, 56 percent of survey respondents said traditional media ads made a positive impression, in contrast to 31 percent who said that about digital media ads. Thirteen percent reported a negative impression of traditional media ads versus 21 percent for digital media ads. Thirty-two percent said they had neither a positive nor a negative impression of traditional media ads, in contrast to 48 percent who said they had neither a good or bad impression of digital media ads.

In other words, traditional ads were more favorably regarded that online advertising. Here’s some explanation from Yankelovich:

A principal reason for those results, said J. Walker Smith, president at the Yankelovich Monitor division of Yankelovich in Atlanta, was that for ads that made an impression, consumers using traditional media were in a more positive mood and more likely to be interested in entertainment and relaxation. By comparison, consumers using digital media were more likely to be in busy moods, seeking control or solving a problem, Mr. Smith said, and they were more likely to be by themselves. In contrast, traditional media are often watched, listened to or read by people in groups.

This finding was also interesting:

Another highlight of the study, according to Mr. Smith, is that ads that made an impression in traditional media were more likely to stimulate word of mouth than ads that made an impression in digital media.

Last year, Nielsen similarly found the traditional media ads were more trusted than most online ad types. Accordingly, one might conclude that traditional advertising has greater “impact,” while online is more “efficient” in some respects.

What all this means is that large advertisers cannot and should not abandon traditional media (see also the discussion of findings re the “synergy” between newspapers and online). They must learn to integrate and combine traditional and online more effectively.

Glassdoor Brings ‘Web 2.0’ to Jobs

June 11, 2008

Jobs is one of the most mature verticals online. There are the proverbial “big three”: CareerBuilder, Monster and the newly resurgent HotJobs. Then there is the insurgent turned incumbent Craigslist. Then there are the meta-search jobs sites such as Indeed and SimplyHired. Beyond this there are dozens and dozens more, not to mention niche job boards on blogs.

Undaunted, Glassdoor has entered the fray. The site, founded by former travel company executives, offers company ratings and detailed reviews and salary information. Think of it as Zillow or TripAdvisor for careers. Indeed the salaries information has the same voyeuristic and viral potential as Zillow’s home valuations.

CEO comparison

Apple description

Salaries

When I spoke to CEO Robert Hohman and Chairman Rich Barton (who remains CEO of Zillow) we had a lengthy discussion about how you manage the “culture” of the site to avoid rants and character assassination (not to mention legal defamation). Without reproducing that discussion here, Hohman told me that all content is editorially reviewed and approved before it goes live and any mentions of individuals within companies (other than the CEOs, who are quasi-public figures) are disapproved.

The CEO rankings and ratings are more novel and PR-worthy than actually useful to job seekers, but most of the information here is potentially quite valuable (especially the salary survey and detailed narratives). The challenge is getting the content from current and former employees. Glassdoor has variety of ways to do that, but it asks people to enter or submit content about their own companies before they’re allowed to see in-depth information on the site. Membership is free; users are just asked to contribute as the “price” of admission.

Consistent with other projects he’s been involved in, Rich Barton wants to bring more “transparency” to the jobs market. Zillow and Avvo (another Barton-related effort) both do this for their respective verticals. However, Glassdoor isn’t the first site to bring “insider information” about companies to the Internet. The well-established Vault.com does something quite similar. That model is subscription-based but with advertising thrown in. Glassdoor will be largely ad supported.

As mentioned, Glassdoor has the potential to be extremely viral. However the familiar “chicken and egg” problem must be conquered: can the site get the content that it needs from users in order to make it really useful and widely used? Over time, certainly.

Glassdoor has spent about six months building up a base of content about the most high-profile tech companies in Silicon Valley and the financial sector. It will need to move beyond that to more mundane and traditional industries to gain mainstream appeal, however. But this is an impressive start.

Microsoft Shutters Live Expo

June 9, 2008

Last Friday Reuters reported that Microsoft was closing down Live Expo:

A notice on the Windows Live Expo site at expo.live.com informs visitors that the service will be discontinued at the end of July. Effective immediately, the site has quit accepting new accounts or listings, it said.

“All current listings will remain on expo.live.com until they expire,” the notice said. “We thank you for your patronage and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Expo was one of several lesser known Windows Live services that Microsoft has shuttered recently. In late May, Microsoft said it would shut off its Windows Live Search Books service.

It’s curious to me that this is shutting down, except that the company likely perceives it as non-core to its search ambitions.

LiveDeal Ousts CEO

May 28, 2008

LiveDeal logoLiveDeal, which resulted from the merger of LiveDeal and YP.com, has reportedly ousted its CEO, Dan Coury, and is in the market for a new one. LiveDeal founder Rajesh Navar was named Chairman.

The combination of classifieds and directory listings makes a lot of sense on paper as a kind of comprehensive local marketplace; however the execution at LiveDeal appears to be missing the mark and needs to be reworked for better content integration and overall user experience.