Category Archives: Classifieds

eBay Firms Up Local Strategies

In case you haven’t noticed, eBay has been ramping up a local strategy in the past few months via the integration of all its vertical properties with its home site, the $75 million purchase of Milo.com, and today, a $200 million acquisition of Brands4Friends, a fashion-oriented, German ecommerce site with 3.5 million members and 200 employees.

EBay’s efforts to acquire new local and vertical properties and integrate them with the home site is a perfectly logical growth strategy. Despite its perceived decline in the marketplace, eBay in 3Q 2010 saw two billion U.S. product searches – well ahead of competitors such as Amazon, which saw 847 million product searches, and Google, which handled 226 million product searches over the same period.

The push into local certainly represents a major change for the company. In the last 1990s, eBay backed off of a comprehensive local strategy when it determined that a “Local Trading “ feature concentrating on items that were too heavy to ship (i.. sofas) didn’t have the traction to really work. Instead, it concentrated on building up eBay Motors, while adding various other verticals, such as Rent.com, an apartments site, StubHub, the ticket scalping site, and various classified services, such as Kijiji (eBay Classifieds), initially developed as a Craig’s List lookalike service.

More recently, eBay worked on a new prototype for a comprehensive local portal, using eBay Motors as a base, while including its various classifieds properties, as well as other services. But that effort seems to have gotten lost in the midst of major corporate changes.

Inevitably, however, eBay has continued to push up against local as it looked for paths to growth. Five years ago, it acquired a site that eventually became eBay Stores, which now competes with players such as Web.com.

Milo CEO and Founder Jack Abraham tells us that eBay is handling the absorption of his site at the highest level. CTO Mark Carges personally lead the acquisition effort, and VP of Engineering Dane Glasgow has been charged with the absorption. Abraham notes that the 25 person company’s small size makes it easy to move right onto the eBay campus. He also says that his team may be deployed on other eBay initiatives beyond local.

Oodle Buys Grouply: Moving The Social Graph Beyond (Just) Friends

Group software seems obsolescent in the social revolution. Or is it?

A few weeks ago, John Battelle’s Federated Media acquired Big Tent, the women’s group enabler with 1.3 million users. It apparently plans to target women with very specific advertising.

Oodle, the mega-classifieds platform, has now followed course, buying Grouply, which is described by TechCrunch as “a do-it-yourself social network built on top of Google Groups and Yahoo Groups.” Oodle isn’t disclosing how much it paid, but Grouply had been funded by VCs (including LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman) to the tune of $2.6 million.

So — What can you do with group software? Oodle CEO Craig Donato sees it as a first step to moving social media beyond just friends. He notes that groups bring in different kinds of conversations in a social context, whether people are giving things away, want to talk to other mothers, or share tips on recycling. Among “first degree friends,” there simply isn’t enough liquidity to engage in robust commerce, he hints.

While the social graph is still mostly about friends, the graphs are getting more complicated, adds Donato. “There are lots of circles, and lots of different affinities. The texture to the graph is incredibly important for commerce. The sweet spot is two or three degrees of separation. This might include friends of friends, college classmates or people from your home town.

AutoTrader Buys Kelley Blue Book

AutoTrader is paying a reported $500 million to acquire the assets of Kelley Blue Book. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2010.

On the surface, the acquisition of KBB is fairly straightforward. While AutoTrader provides its own research for consumers to value cars and check out reviews, Kelley Blue Book, is the gold standard in that segment, which also includes NADAGuides and Edmunds. AutoTrader says it plans to keep the Kelley Blue Book brands.

The acquisition, however, has interesting angles to it. Last year, KBB added The Trusted Marketplace, a used and new car site that put it in direct competition against other car portals, including AutoTrader, with which it had a two- year deal to provide leads. That deal, which succeeded a similar arrangement between KBB and Cars.com, was allowed to end six months early.

Redfin’s Glenn Kelman at Inman: 16 Markets by end of 2010


Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told Inman Real Estate Connect attendees in San Francisco yesterday that his “customer first” brokerage is likely to be in 16 markets by yearend 2010. The site is currently in 12 markets and employs 100 agents.

Redfin’s apparent progress is seen by some as evidence that the advantage goes to brokerages that minimize their risk (namely, keeping agents around that underperform). With Redfin, agents are on salary and don’t do prospecting. Instead, they focus on customer service, and are paid, in part, based on satisfaction levels.

“We’ve been doubling every year,” and have had a good run for the last 12-16 months, despite the bad economy, said Kelman. The last two months, however, have been flat as tax incentives have expired. Kelman further noted that the Bay Area is Redfin’s most profitable market, although Washington D.C. and Los Angeles are the company’s largest revenue producers.

Redfin got in the national press recently because one of the 10 Russian spies had been employed as an agent. Kelman noted that the Boston-based agent was “a very dedicated person. It didn’t gibe with the person selling homes for us.”

USAA Teams with Vast.com for Real Estate


USAA, the giant financial services company for military families with 7.4 million members, has partnered with Vast.com, the vertical meta-search and database company, to develop a real estate site to round out its offerings. We see the effort as part of a broader movement of retailers and merchants providing more ancillary services. USAA, itself, kicked off the trend by offering autos via a relationship with Zag.com.

In regards to real estate, USAA has run Movers Advantage for 15 years. It is a service which provides consumers with cash back for allowing them to provide Realtor referrals. But this is the first time that USAA will provide a real estate site with a comprehensive database of for sale and rental listings, along with real estate decision information, such as neighborhood and school information. There will also be an iPhone app.

The current effort has been incubated over the past 13 months. It grew from a relationship between Vast and Cartus, the relocation arm of Realogy, the largest U.S. brokerage conglomerate. To us, it makes a lot of sense, given the high propensity of military families to move. Using the Vast.com database, users can search any place in the country and get information for communities where they may not have any familiarity.

Craig Newmark at Inman: Craigslist in 70 Cities


Craig’s List Founder Craig Newmark made another of his regular visits to Brad Inman’s stage at Real Estate Connect today, which is taking place in San Francisco. Newmark, who humbly refers to himself as working in customer service, noted that Craig’s List is now in 70 cities and receives over 50 million unique visitors a month. Those visitors look at over 20 billion page views a month.

Craig’s List has been taking a beating from law enforcement officials over its adult ads and other subjects, but Newmark says that the complaints are not really making much of an impact. “People like to manufacture controversy,” he says. But Craig’s List remains both “a business and a community service.”

In fact, the service has generally made strides in most areas, thanks in part to the addition of more customer service employees. The service now has 35 employees.

“The most complaints are in New York,due to abuses of apartment listings. But “there has been a big improvement. It is better than it was five years ago,” says Newmark, who also answered personal questions and discussed government issues. In answer to an audience question, he noted that he did not find his girl friend on Craig’s List. He also says that a pre-nup between them is the “subject of negotiation.”

Zillow Extends Ties with Yahoo Real Estate; Will Power Listings

Zillow announced today that it will power Yahoo’s “for sale” listings, in much the same way that Cars.com powers Yahoo’s new and used cars listings. Zillow typically carries four million + listings. The announcement spearheads a slew of online real estate announcements prior to next week’s Inman Real Estate Connect conference (which I am attending),

The enhanced Yahoo and Zillow tie doesn’t achieve the “buy a slot” status of other Yahoo vertical outsourcing — it would have been too expensive for any of the major real estate portals — but it also goes well beyond the current Yahoo-Zillow relationship,which basically consists of Yahoo’s syndication of Z-estimate home valuations. That has been in place since 2006.

Under the new deal, the two companies bring together the real estate websites that have the second (Zillow) and third (Yahoo) highest number of unique visitors, per ComScore. The deal, which is symbiotic for both companies, shows how things have changed from five or six years ago, when Yahoo itself was seen as a major threat to use open Internet listings to dominate real estate advertising. Now, Yahoo is basically content leveraging its sales relationships with national brokerages, while Zillow focuses on the content and local accounts. Real Estate remains highly profitable for Yahoo.

While Zillow listings won’t go up on Yahoo until later this year, the two companies are immediately coordinating their sales efforts. Zillow’s “Premier Agent” program will be extended to Yahoo Real Estate. Current Zillow advertisers will be offered the chance to extend their relationship to Yahoo. Additionally, Zillow’s local “Showcase Ads” and “Featured Listings” will automatically be extended to Yahoo, making it easier for both sites to reach a quorum of users. For Sale By Owner advertising will also appear on both sites.One thing that Yahoo doesn’t get access to in the deal is Zillow’s burgeoning display business.