Walmart.com is a national site without local pretensions. And the company’s stores themselves don’t really have much “community” about them. They generally don’t have bulletin boards or other things to bring the community together.
But the giant retailer is now offering free classifieds on Walmart.com via a deal with Oodle, which hopes to display its network of free listings in as many places as possible, and drive more traffic for advertising. If it works, we may revisit the idea that retail sites are media in their own right — an idea that was floating around several years ago.
Oodle CEO Craig Donato says Wal-Mart may be its first retail partner but should fit right in. The site is looking for partners that get a lot of traffic but also have some local elements to them. Military.com, for instance, has proved to be a perfect Oodle partner, he says. Troops are scattered in communities across the U.S. and the world.
The placement of Wal-Mart Classifieds on the home page of Walmart.com — it isn’t there now — would definitely humanize the site. It could even be seen as part of a broader community development initiative. Two years ago, the company had an initiative to help small businesses launch Web sites and promote themselves on the Internet — something that seems to have come and gone.
The talk on the blogosphere, however, is that Wal-Mart Classifieds is an attempt to take on Craigslist for the hinterland. It seems like quite a stretch. When Wal-Mart starts to promote the Oodle classifieds in its stores, at the checkout counter, and on TV ads (it could, right?) then we may be on to something.