The partisans have come out of the woodwork to defend the future of classifieds — and specifically, newspaper-dominated classifieds. Following are short takes from comments sent to The Local Onliner. (It is worthwhile to look up the full comments.)
Jay Schauer, who heads Ad2Ad, a self-provisioning classified system for community and college papers, grouses that he's "heard the hype" about Google Base killing off classifieds. "Here's what GoogleBase isn't going to kill: Classifieds."
The thing about ‘classified ads’ is that they are CLASSIFIED," notes Schauer. "You can quickly find a category (like ‘Seasonal Items’) and a classification (like ‘Halloween Costumes’) and hey-presto, the ads there are for those items and ONLY those items. What a concept." Searches on Google Base, complains Schauer, often return a load of irrelevant links.
Schauer (a sometimes client) goes on to compare "the Death of Classifieds to the Paperless Office of the 1970s. Offices now use 10 times as much paper as in 1970."
Jeff Rapson, VP with Contraco’s Search Initiatives, which is trying to help newspapers get into the SME space (like the rest of us), seconds Schauer's views. "Presumably we'll end up somewhere in the middle with a vendor that has successfully figured out B2C, C2C & B2B. Munging together the best of a shop/newspaper classifieds marketplace with the best of a IYP directory offering. TBD."
Meanwhile, Tom Britt, publisher of At Geist, an online shopper/city guide in the Indianapolis area, thinks it is less an issue of newspapers vs. Yellow Pages than online vs. print. He also suggests that the success of online is going to hit Yellow Pages even harder and faster than newspapers.
"I think YP is in trouble," writes Britt. "Their brand has been diminished somewhat because of competing print publications, not so much because of online local listings. Print is print, and people that use YP generally don't think ‘hey, why am I pulling this out of the kitchen drawer when I could run upstairs and search Google local listings to get the same information?’
Britt says he has found this to be the case with his own print publication, a monthly newsletter that is mailed to residents. On the other hand, his online newsletter attracts a totally different crowd, beyond the mailing list. "People either trust print or online, not typically both," he writes. "That's why I think online classifieds are important. To Meg's point, classifieds are ‘entry level e-commerce’, but they also help in the web's adoption by older, YP, consumers."