eBay CEO Meg Whitman seemed more excited about the potential of classifieds than its auction business, and Yahoo sees classifieds as a key opportunity.
Auctions are like Rodney Dangerfield on Yahoo - they can't get any respect. Yahoo does little to support them and views them as content to serve up paid-search advertisements. In September, Yahoo appointed a new VP of Marketplaces. She said Yahoo could "win in the online classifieds and local listings segment," ignoring mention of that pesky auction platform.
In this week's conference call with analysts, eBay's Meg Whitman said that while eBay's classifieds area is a nascent business, she sees great opportunities to further expand and monetize them. And in fact, eBay has been rolling out classified format listings on the eBay platform.
Interestingly, one of eBay's earliest employees saw the opportunity in classifieds before eBay did. Rajesh Navar, eBay's 70th employee and first search engineer, founded and built eBay's search team. In 2003, Rajesh incorporated LiveDeal, an online classifieds site that was one of the first "marketplaces" I saw use RSS feeds for buyers to track items in which they were interested.
Early Excite.com executives founded classifieds aggregator Oodle in 2005, another site that building on the potential of classifieds listings.
The auction business isn't going away, but online auction sellers should wonder what this attraction toward classifieds will mean in the long run, and whether it presents opportunities for their own businesses. It may be worthwhile exploring this issue, if not now, then in January.
I'll be keeping my eye on services like Vflyer that try to optimize the classifieds-listing experience. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on whether online auction sellers can use classifieds efficiently and effectively.