Tag Archives: vast.com

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.

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.

HotJobs’ Launches ‘Pay-Per-Candidate;’ Broad Implications

In an action that could have broad implications for the classifieds industry, Yahoo! HotJobs has added a “Pay Per Candidate” model that guarantees that recruiters aren’t paying for untouched “ghost” listings. Pay Per Candidate only charges recruiters when candidates view a listing and act on it.

The HotJobs model, similar to efforts launched by niche recruitment sites such as Indeed, allows recruiters to put a ceiling on the number of applications received. Recruiters can also screen candidate credentials so they aren’t paying for unqualified applicants.

HotJobs’ move suggests continued evolution up the search ladder, and the industry’s growing efficiency (and complexity). It is easy to see how Pay Per Candidate could similarly be applied across the board for car sites, real estate sites and other classified segments.

Theoretically, a next step for HotJobs would be to add more searchable elements, matching searches to candidates, and charging a premium for conversions, a la some of the installations of Vast.com’s service.

Kelley Blue Book Going with Performance-Based Model for Classifieds

Should classified services continue to list page-after-page of listings, or take advantage of search capabilities to spotlight listing matches? That’s a dilemma every classified service has had to contend with.

Advantages of traditional listings are they are easily understood by advertisers, and possibly foster a better environment for display ads. The potential advantages for performance based ads are that they are efficient, and are potentially more lucrative, given the better “conversion” rates that come with matching based on search criteria.

Last week, Kelley Blue Book said it was going to go with the performance-based model for an auto marketplace that will be introduced in 4Q. “Dealers will realize efficient sales at a fraction of the cost incurred with traditional, subscription-based classified listing models,” noted a release.

Kelley, which has chosen Vast.com as its partner for the performance-based piece, said it will be differentiated from similar offerings by integrating the historical auto research that the company is generally known for. The site, fed by 12 million unique visitors to the main kbb.com site, will also include a “Dealer Storefront.” This will provide consumers with detailed information about the dealership, and will provide dealers with “new lead opportunities, special messaging and merchandising opportunities.”

Kelley CEO Paul Johnson said in the release that “the scale of kbb.com’s pay-for-performance model is a game-changer in the online classifieds business. We expect that this program will be successful in not only matching consumers with cars that they want to buy, but also in helping the industry sell more vehicles at lower per-vehicle advertising costs.”

AOL Adds Classifieds; Partners with Oodle

AOL Local has teamed with Oodle to launch AOL Classifieds in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, AOL is launching a U.K. classifieds site at the end of the week. Oodle aggregates listings from more than 250 partner sites (including MySpace, Facebook and WalMart).

The timing might be especially useful for used person-to-person goods, as people try to raise additional money to stave off the bad economy. Oodle certainly likes the deal.

With 54 million unique visitors for AOL Local, Oodle CEO Craig Donato told us that “AOL should be a good sized partner. They will help us drive a lot of scale into our network, which helps AOL as well as all the other partners. In addition to driving traffic, they will help us drive a lot of user posts, which is great content.”

While the announcement covers AOL’s Local and Specialty Verticals, it will link to — but not cover — AOL’s separate Marketplace categories. Marketplace includes AOL Travel, AOL Real Estate and AOL Autos. That means that the “vehicle” section of AOL Classifieds, for instance, only has listings for trucks, motorcycles and boats. It doesn’t have cars.

It also means that AOL Autos is sticking with Vast, a pay for performance classifieds search engine, for both AOL Autos and AOL Automoviles Latino. Marketplace Strategy Leader Doug Eddy told us that when AOL Autos was launching two years ago, it chose Vast because it provides a great deal of flexibility. For instance, the site was able to launch with both new and used autos.

Vast.com Adds Performance-Based Marketing to Classifieds

Are classifieds fated, by definition, to be “dumb” all-you-can-eat listings? Or can certain categories be re-made as performance-based listings a la Google that bring best matches to the top, bringing higher revenue in return for a better match and conversion?

That’s the question posed by Vast.com, a San Francisco-based company working with “inventory” classifieds: autos, real estate and travel. The company, which is the focus of a Kelsey Marketplaces report, currently has deals with AOL, Overstock, Orbitz’s Away, The LA Times and others.

Vast was launched in 2005 by Kevin Laws, a former exec with Epinions. He has since been joined by former execs from Zillow, Trilogy, Paypal, and CoreMetrics. The basic idea is that “leads on the Internet suck,” says Laws. But if listings that are already in the inventory can be better matched with user needs, they’re much more effective.

“We’re in the business of making transactions, as opposed to just making the information available,” and forcing users to browse screen-after-screen of listings, says Laws. The key is “to understand the meta-data on an item. That is where all our technology goes. For example, we can see that a particular vehicle is priced $2000 lower compared to similar cars – and therefore should be the one recommended to the user.”

The performance-based metrics, in particular, allow companies to really focus on strategic marketing. “An auto dealer can use our system to get more SUV leads,” if they feel like they have too many SUVs on the lot, says Laws. “They can say they need 23 more leads by the end of the month.”

Laws is confident that a large percentage of the existing subscription based model will switch over to performance-based pricing, as auto dealers, apartment managers and other inventory-based categories strive for maximum efficiency in their marketing. “Half of subscription (based pricing) goes away in five years,” he predicts.