What Problem Do Blog Classifieds Solve?

from the enlighten-me dept

There's been a lot of buzz in the blogworld about the launch of Edgeio, which appears to be a way of aggregating classified-type listings that people post on blogs. Part of the reason for all the buzz seems to be the association of Michael Arrington with Edgeio. Arrington runs the popular TechCrunch blog that covers all the various Web 2.0-style companies. In some ways, the popularity of this blog acts as a protectionary measure for Edgeio, since many people who work with various companies might not want to upset Arrington and not get covered on his site (which, honestly, is a pretty sweet marketing position to be in for Edgeio).

However, it's interesting to see that just days after Edgeio opened its doors, another, nearly identical, offering is opening up as well, called BlogBuy. It makes you wonder, what's special about Edgeio? Looking over the initial release, it certainly looked like you could hack together an Edgeio clone on top of something like Technorati without too much difficulty. In both cases, the companies try to let people post whatever classified-type information they want via feeds (which doesn't just mean blogs, of course, but most people focus on the blog aspect). It's an interesting way to try to get out from having all of that content "owned" in a central place by the likes of Craigslist -- but what hasn't been made clear is what problem these sites are actually solving. We hadn't heard of people complaining that Craigslist and eBay were too centralized. Also, the business model here seems to be to pay for better listings -- but that relies on unhappiness with Craigslist and eBay again -- something that isn't at all clear. In fact, given the usage patterns on both sites, it seems like people are pretty happy with both. Both have also gone out of their way to accommodate sellers. eBay, especially, has built up a tremendous infrastructure to support their sellers. So, while there's a lot of buzz about these offerings and how they somehow change the game, it's still not clear to us how that game is changed without fulfilling a need. In many ways, actually, it seems similar to the launch of Google base. The concept is interesting, and it could have some potential over time if a big enough community can be built up and additional services/features are added. However, initially... what problem is it solving?


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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 1 Mar 2006 @ 10:26am

    Re: edgeio, hype and reality

    Keith,

    Thanks very much for the detailed response. I'm sure we all appreciate you (and Michael from BlogBuy) both coming here and clarifying what it was that I missed about both of your offerings.

    As for the TechCrunch connection, I didn't mean to imply, and I'm sorry if I did, that this was part of some master plan or that Arrington doesn't deserve credit for TechCrunch. Not at all. I don't think it was planned out, and I know that Arrington has worked very hard to make TechCrunch a top destination site. The basis for my statement was the end effect of that -- which is that *multiple* people have commented privately to me that they felt they could not criticize Edgeio on their blogs, even constructively, as it could harm them down the road if they ever needed an endorsement on TechCrunch. That struck me as an interesting phenomenon -- not necessarily a positive or negative one. Just a fascinating one.

    As for the needs you describe:

    1. The need for listings to be free. CraigsList and Ebay both charge listing fees for some or all sellers. The trend is for these fees to grow and for more sellers to be subject to them. In a world of centralized publishing a listing fee is a tax on a sale. If publishing can move to the edge we can make the fees redundant. The key to doing this is to provide centralized listings with distributed publishing. Thus fulfilling the need to remove listing fees.

    I'm not convinced this is a "need" in these circumstances. First off, for Craigslist, almost all listings are free. There are only a very few that they charge for.

    And, as for eBay, it almost seems like the listing fees help keep some aspect of the quality up (not all, obviously), but you get the feeling some people appreciate that small barrier to keeping out all sorts of junk.

    If you read Techdirt, you know that I'm a big fan of companies who figure out how to leverage "free," so perhaps my position seems odd. However, while there are some who dislike the listing fee, I think it still adds credibility to eBay.

    As proof of this, remember that Yahoo has tried getting rid of listing fees and it hasn't really helped their standing in the online auction world.

    2. The need for small businesses to reduce their sales costs. Store fees and listing fees inhibit the entrepreneurial growth in the small business sector. Compare the number of Yahoo or EBay stores to the number of small businesses with web sites. There is a huge gap in the market where small businesses would like to sell online but can't. Turning a blog into a strefront (free with edgeio) can bring many more small businesses online. Incidentally, the reason edgeio covers a large part of the globe is because we believe this is an international need.

    This is an interesting point, and we'll see what happens -- but I'm not yet convinced that the average small business owner will grok the "blog as storefront" concept. Perhaps if Edgeio or someone else builds nice Edgeio-focused tools (which I'm guessing is on your roadmap somewhere). Again, there have been many efforts over the years at making it easy to set up storefronts for small businesses. I haven't seen any evidence that there's a major pain point here -- but perhaps you've seen different data.

    3. The need for sellers in the 9/10ths of the world EBay and CraigsList doesn't cover to be able to be equal citizens in e-commerce. My Mom lives in Scarborough, UK. It isn't a place recognized by Craig or EBay. It is in the edgeio geobase, along with 3 million other towns anc cities. All these people now need os a palce to publish and edgeio.

    For Craigslist, this is a valid point -- but there are reasons for it. Most of the stuff sold on Craigslist is much better sold locally and picked up locally. So you want to have locations with large online populations. When I looked at Edgeio it seemed like a lot of the listings were similar, and a local focus is important. It's nice that you try to cover that spot for other places, but if no one else is online and looking at those places... I'm not sure how big a benefit it is.

    Also, I'm confused as to why eBay doesn't cover the location. Is there no way to log on to eBay's site from there?

    4. The need for better real-time search. edgeio indexes in real time. It provides great rss feeds for any query. Combining these 2 makes a real time alerting system for anything, anywhere. Try it, you'll like it.

    Not sure how this is a competitive advantage. I know Craigslist offers RSS feeds on queries, and I'd be surprised if eBay didn't (or if someone hasn't set up a way to get RSS feeds off of eBay). Also, "real-time" is nice, but I wasn't aware that Craigslist or eBay didn't list things once they were in the system in near real time. And given that most RSS readers only poll less than once an hour... the real-time nature doesn't seem that valuable as long as it's close.

    5. The need for better distribution by vendors. A store can only serve it's direct customers, but if the data can be taken from the store and dustributed around the network into new places (always pointing back to the original item) then the store can sell to more people. By seperating data from its original point of publishing and making it free, edgeio is facilitating more people seeing it.

    Yeah, this point makes sense, in theory. However, it breaks down when you realize that eBay and Craigslist have built up their brands to tremendous levels so that they are the marketplaces people look to. If someone does a quick calculation on the chances of something being seen on eBay or on their blog + Edgeio... it seems like they're going to choose eBay. Hopefully you guys can build up enough of an audience to change that position.

    I think it would be great for eBay to have some more serious competition, and I wish you guys the best of luck. I guess I'm still left confused about what pain point you're solving. Reading through the list, it seems more like you came up with that list after-the-fact to justify what seems like a cool idea.

    I know you have a lot of very smart supporters and advisors and investors (including a few friends of mine). I respect those people's opinions, and assume that I'm missing something... but I guess I still haven't seen the light.

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