Is Aggregating Online Classifieds A Bad Thing?

from the it's-more-traffic... dept

Yesterday, we wrote about how the Tribune Company was not only offering up its own free online classifieds service, but was also aggregating other free classified sites like Craigslist. This came just a little while after another site launched specifically to aggregate classified ads by location. In the comments to yesterday’s posts, someone suggested that this was somehow “stealing” content and that Craigslist should send lawyers after these sites. This seemed like a strange idea. Not only does it seem to go against everything that Craigslist clearly stands for, it would be a short-sighted move. These other sites drive more traffic. It’s like free advertising. However, it appears that some other newspapers are confused about this idea and are talking about blocking other aggregators from scraping their content. Of course, this actually makes their classified content less valuable, because fewer people will see the ads — and the classified business is all about going where the most people are.

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Comments on “Is Aggregating Online Classifieds A Bad Thing?”

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Seun Osewa (user link) says:

Craigslist Scrapers

Yes, Craigslist stands for ‘Geek values’. Sometimes ‘Geek Values’ can make you very successful (the early Google, Craigslist) but other times these same values can lead to catastrophic failure. The same values that brought Craigslist to greatness can also kill it on the long run!

What happens when the most influential newspaper in a city where craigslist has not become popular starts listing Craigslist Ads alongside its own? The masses of people reading the newspaper will prefer to click “classifieds” on the Newspaper site instead of going to Craigslist. Soon, advertisers in that particular area will start thinking “why don’t I post my ads on the newspaper, since it has more traffic from our town than Craigslist?”

A more deadly scenario is when a company like Yahoo or Google starts including craigslist ads in its local searches. Why go to craigslist when yahoo or google can mix the ads with organic search results and give you exactly what you want?

Sites that are taking Craigslist ads will starts chipping at craigslist traffic from all sides until it’s no longer “the place to go for classified ads”.

Look at it this way: How many people go to for their daily news? How much money will get if newspapers all over the world could syndicate their content for free? Of course the reports will get more exposure (:-P), but the company behind the reports will die!

One more thing: If Craigslist wants to retain its leadership position without preventing 3rd party sites from scraping its ads and displaying the ads on their own pages, then it could include ads from those 3rd party sites on craigslist, too, to give them more ‘exposure’! (:-P) has 3 choices:
* Charge 3rd party sites for the privilege of using the ads on their own sites.
* Allow 3rd parties to index and search the ads for free; but make it compulsory for them to link to Craigslist if their users want to view the ads.
* Start aggregating ads from 100s of newspapers sites around the world: ‘Expose’ them to death, for the greater good! 😀

(And while they are at it, they might want to give users the option of using a better designed version of Craigslist!)

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