Is it my imagination, or did classifieds just become hot again? Or were they something that's always been hot, but just under the radar? Newspapers have been living off of classified revenue for years - and are now bemoaning the fact that sites like eBay and CraigsList are now taking away a lot of that revenue. (I don't know about you, but I can't imagine trollling through the back of my daily newspaper for jobs, car listings or real estate any more, but I definitely remember the pre-Internet time of buying Sunday's paper and circling ads with a red pen.) But now suddenly online there seems to be a resurgence of the idea.
I have to admit, I was pretty surprised yesterday when I ran across our Yahoo! Classifieds. I'm sure I've seen it before - I've gone over our product listing top to bottom several times over the past year working there, but it just popped out at me now because of the EdgeIO and Windows Expo launches and the addition of payments into the GoogleBase. And remember the other day I ran across the MySpace classieds as well. After seeing all the news lately, my thinking was first, "I wonder why Y! doesn't have classifieds..." and then, "Hey, look at that, we do have classifieds!" I have *no* idea how long it's been around or what the usage is or anything that, and I'm not really promoting it - I have no idea how useful it is. I'm just amazed it's there.
And that's my point. I haven't really thought about it before.
I've thought of CraigsList a bit, and why it works from a community aspect. And I've thought about the market forces behind eBay's essential monopoly on auctions here in the U.S.. But I've never actually looked at the whole classifieds category - which is sort of defined in my mind like "A place where I can list all sorts of stuff for sale or look to find a product and service directly from someone else, as physically close to me as possible so it's not a pain." Yeah, it's sort of a run-on loose definition, but that seems to be the general idea.
Again, newspapers have been doing this for a long time. There's big Newspapers like the New York Times with their own classifieds, and networks of classifieds from conglomerates like Knight Ridder (though I'm sure they all have local numbers to call as well). They're all slightly different - some do it all themselves, others license content from other national databases, etc. Because newspapers are naturally focused on a specific city or region, they seem to be the obvious place to put these sorts of ads as well. Which is why there's no classifieds to speak of really in USA Today.
I wonder what the long term opportunity is for this type of system? Will people continue to flock to generic marketplaces like CraigsList and then "drill down" into the location and category of what they're looking for? Or will they go to cars.com if they're looking to buy/sell cars and realestate.com looking for real estate, and hotjobs.com looking for jobs and match.com looking for personals instead? Maybe they'll just use a Local Search engine instead? But then how do people list their stuff? This is EdgeIO's fatal flaw... they're expecting seller's have a website when the vast majority of the world doesn't have weblogs or websites, so *posting* their thing for sale is problematic. Really, it's much easier to just fill out a web form on Craigslist, no?
Maybe that's an idea for a company - make an "SendToSell.com" service. Just send an email with your product description and price or service or whatnot to a specific address (like your zipcode: firstname.lastname@example.org) and the rest is taken care of - listed using tags for EdgeIO and other search engines to find, maybe re-posted on other sites, etc.? Hell, do it from your camera phone and include a picture of the thing you're selling at the same time! Even easier than Craigslist! The cool thing is if you send it from your phone using SMS/MMS, issues like identity are assisted considerably - no need to "claim" your website, your phone number is your identity. If each post is charged a small fee by Premium SMS, then *bam* you've got a business model too, look at that!
Anyways, this is just a braindump. Something to think about.