Oodle: Google for Classifieds
Call it a search engine for classifieds.
Started by a couple of the original folks at Excite, Oodle aims to be a comprehensive search engine for classifieds. That's right: Craigslist, eBay, CareerBuilder, Cars.com, newspaper sites — everything.
Right now, they're launching (in beta of course) with three cities: Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia. But relatively soon, they'll roll out nationally. With the exception of eBay, Oodle currently doesn't take any feeds from anyone. But it hopes to do so over time.
Currently, Oodle is crawling sites and indexing classifieds content from hundreds of sources — about 80,000 to 90,000 listings per week — cleaning and de-duping ads along the way.
According to CEO Craig Donato, Oodle is trying to solve a fragmentation problem with local classifieds — no single player has a dominant share of listings, not even Craigslist. By creating a search engine for classifieds, Oodle is aiming to provide consumers with critical mass, a single place to get comprehensive listings coverage for a particular area.
The site allows consumers, depending on the category, to sort by price and location, among other relevant criteria. Oodle looks to be a very useful site, which should become very popular with consumers as it adds new cities. Whether or not it will be equally popular with the listings providers (e.g., Craigslist and CareerBuilder) remains to be seen.
"We aren€™t in the listings business," says Donato, who sees Oodle driving traffic back to local newspaper sites, verticals and others. Donato says that Oodle won't be selling directly to advertisers and thus sees no conflict with the various listings providers. (Oodle intends to work with third party sites to sell enhanced ads/placement on oodle.)
He and I disagree a bit whether or not everyone will welcome Oodle. Consumers clearly will. And those trying to drive more traffic to their advertisers — in particular newspaper sites — will also be pleased (and should start delivering feeds). But it does potentially mean that consumers will go to Oodle and not the respective local/vertical sources of the listings it serves.
In other words, if I can go to Oodle and get everything I need in one place, why would I go back to HotJobs or Craigslist or the Chicago Tribune? Those individual providers/sites will have to offer a great deal more functionality, features and other information to remain viable destinations if oodle catches on. (And some of them already do.)
But how all that plays out remains to be seen.
For now, Oodle appears to be a very consumer-friendly addition to the rapidly evolving world of local online classifieds.
Donato will be part of a panel on the future of online classifieds on Day 2 of Drilling Down on Local.