Washington Post & Oodle : Aggregated DC Classifieds Marketplace
The Washington Post has been doing some very interesting things online lately. And today, it has launched a site for its Express publication. Express is the Post’s free metro daily distributed at Washington, DC-area Metro stations and in other “popular urban areas” that tries to attract young readers who are the most difficult market for traditional newspapers and who are defecting to the Internet.
The new Express site isn’t yet fully functional — for example, you have to download the current edition as a pdf — but it will soon be. What’s interesting about it for purposes of this post is that the Washington Post has struck a deal with classifieds aggregator Oodle to power a classifieds marketplace on the site. Oodle will be doing several things: hosting it, providing Washington DC-area content and its search/refine/browse capabilities to Express. Those capabilities make it instantly better than most newspaper classifieds sites operating today. (LiveDeal.com is another classifieds provider that has extensive newspaper relationships.)
This means that Express becomes a classifieds aggregator for the DC area online. (Note that this is not the WashingtonPost.com, but the secondary brand.) This is precisely the kind of thing that newspapers should be doing. And if this goes very well, over time the Post will probably integrate this approach into the main site.
This is why I’m a convert to the “separate brands” approach for newspapers online — it allows them to overcome some of the internal cultural challenges to experimentation that would otherwise inhibit them if they were considering the main newspaper brand/site. They can then take the “best of breed” outcomes from those experiments and use them if they so choose.
So the question is: what’s the relationship between the Washington Post/Express advertisers and the content from Oodle? As I understand it, Express will carry Washington Post classified advertisers, who will receive priority placement above the general non-Post Oodle content in search results. In other words, if I were to search on “2005 Honda Accord,” relevant Post classified advertisers would show up first in results. That would no longer be true, however, as I drill down in those results and sort/refine by other criteria (e.g., body color, cost, mileage, etc.)
The Post deal is just one of several Oodle has recently announced (others are Backpage.com and Lycos) as part of a strategy to syndicate listings and become a hosting partner. There are more in the pipeline apparently.
Classifieds on the Express site aren’t free (though I believe there will be some experimentation there) but the comprehensiveness of the new site for the DC-area should make it an attractive destination for area residents and may give Craigslist a real run for its money. Regardless, this is the sort of strategy and experiment the newspapers should be pursuing to make themselves (or their secondary brands) into more comprehensive local destinations.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.