Micro Classified Ads Websites

by Mr. Cheap

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Years ago I lived and worked in the Bay area (I was there for the dot com boom and bust). While I was there I discovered the wonder that is Craigslist. When I was heading back to Canada for my Masters, I had the idea of making a Canadian version. I actually went so far as registering a domain and e-mailing the Craigslist staff asking them if there would be any possibility of a partnership. They blew me off and I dropped the idea, but now that everyone in Canada is using Craigslist, I kick myself for not duplicating their website (which would be easy, the beauty of Craigslist isn’t the technical sophistication of their site, its the community they build and maintain) and beating them to Canada.

Nowadays I think people are idiots who consider competing with Craigslist or E-Bay. These are pretty well the definition of “winner takes all” businesses. You could only really compete with them by starting in a market they hadn’t entered yet.

Along a similar line, another business idea I’ve had is to create classified sites for small communities. This could either be small towns, apartment buildings, schools or areas in a town. The site would let someone set up a new classified site, which would be along the same lines as Craigslist (although with fewer categories since there’d be a smaller user base): buy and sell, jobs, housing and personals. There would be discussion forums that would help build the community and keep people coming back, especially in the early days. There would be a moderator who could do various things to control the site (perhaps breaking up categories, add some of their own advertisements, that sort of thing). The database behind the site would be managed by the company creating the service (think Geocities). The moderator would build the community and advertise the site.

Certain places on the page would be “reserved areas”. When and if a community grew to a certain size, the company would then use them as an ad network (this is how it’d be monetized). Ads could be sold broadly (e.g. this goes in rotation on all sites throughout the network), or targeted (these only go out to sites in Toronto, or apartment buildings in Toronto, or sites within 5 km of the restaurant). Alternatively, if the moderator or community objected to ads, they could pay a hosting fee and get an ads free version (the price would increase with their usage). If there wasn’t any interest in building a sales force, ad space could just be used with Ad Words or sold to some ad network.

The downside is there’d probably be tons of sites with little or no activity. The upside would be that the creation and maintenance of this would be VERY cheap, and would scale with the user base. As there was more demand placed on the system (perhaps leading to higher bandwidth costs or more powerful servers), this would translate directly into more page views, which would translate directly into more revenue. The first version would take nothing more than a bit of developer time and a computer hooked up to the internet 24/7 (I host servers from my home connection when its nothing mission critical).

The actual demand (processing, bandwidth, and hard drive space) on the system should be quite minimal for a classified ads type site.

For this post, or any other of the wacky business ideas I post, obviously I’m releasing any ownership claims I may have over these ideas. If you like something I post and feel like you can make money from it, please feel free to do so! Let me know when you’re opening and we’ll do a post on it to give you some free advertising.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Billy

Kijiji seems to have a larger market share than Craigslist, at least in the Waterloo Region…

http://kitchener.kijiji.ca/

Along the line of small community sites
http://www.connectorlocal.com/
seems to be the largest in our area. How’d they do it? I think that WeCreate (the company behind ConnectorLocal) did the websites for the local radio stations gratis…

2 Personal Tax & Financial Planning

You know going head-to-head with Craigslist is not that bad an idea. I’ve seen a number of local type sites around in Canada and some with a fair degree of volume.

Now e-Bay did launch Kijiji which, in my city (Burlington Ontario) is hotter than hot. My wife has pretty much sold off all our excess stuff and pretty short order on Kijiji. Craigslist has been a dud.

I think on-line classified are still a great idea and there is plenty of opportunity if you can develop a nieche and promote the idea.

3 Mr. Cheap

PT&FP: I’d say this is an example of a company, Kijiji, starting in a market Craigslist hadn’t entered, or at least weren’t well established in (Burlington).

The only thing e-Bay (I didn’t know they were behind Kijiji, thanks) has going for it is these sites are dirt cheap to run, so there’s no big pain in trying to nibble away at Craigslist in the coming years.

Long term, my money would be on Craigslist, even in Burlington.

4 Nobleea

I’d put my money on Kijiji. I think craigslist is good for the artist types looking for gigs, but for anything else, kijiji is where they look. I have sold quite a bit off kijiji and not even tried with craigslist.

People nowadays will not be satisfied with the uber-basic text interface that craigslist has. They expect more glam. Though I will mention that because kijiji is fraught with ads. But it is infinitely more popular out here (Edmonton).

5 Mr. Cheap

I smell a wager in the making ;-)

6 Jerry Hung

For Kitchener-Waterloo, Kijiji >>>> Craigslist
I’ve sold more stuff on Kijiji than Craigs, although a few times Craigs came to the rescue
But I am too lazy to post in 2 places

One problem is there are so much spams on Kijiji now, with shipping products from England :( they need to prevent scammers with graphic verification

7 Al

For Ottawa, I like Kijiji better. I find it’s easier to find what I’m looking for.

8 Warren

I’m in Vancouver. I’ve used craigslist to buy and sell stuff, it works great. I’ve looked at kijiji, but it seems to have less buyers and sellers here.

I have a friend in Victoria who has sold a lot through usedvictoria.com. I think it all depends what catches on.

I think you could find a niche in local communities. Metro Vancouver, much like Toronto and other major cities, is made up of a bunch of suburbs, and even within those, a bunch of communities. Craigslist and others don’t (yet) separate those out too well.

9 Jordan Clark

I thought of a similar idea to this for apartment buildings, the other group it would fit very nicely would be co-op housing groups which could use it to organize.

10 Mr. Cheap

Billy & Jerry: Thanks for the advice, I’ll definitely look at Kijiji more. I’d pretty well dismissed it, so its definitely good to know if its “the” site for KW classifieds (maybe that explains why I had trouble finding a place to live on craigslist ;-) ).

11 CamTurner

Billy, For the record ConnectorLocal.com now pulls in the RSS feed from Kijiji for KW and blends them with other sources of classified information as well as ones provided directly to the site by members. It sort of makes a first-stop shop for buying stuff in the area. Users are still sent on to the original source site (like Kijiji) for more info, but the blending allows people to look in one place instead of 5 or more if they want a used bed cheap…

12 Triad Website

The good thing about a local classifieds website is that its possible to do offline marketing to build traffic. Plus, its possible to create a valuable community resource with parks, museums, and local flavor. We’re just starting this with triadwebsite.com, in North Carolina, USA. This isn’t such a wacky idea!

13 Mr. Cheap

Triad: Yes, you’re absolutely right! With a local site, you can post signs, leave pamphlets under peoples doors and / or on car windshields and connect with people in a way that a purely on-line site never could.

Craigslist did this in the early days (they’d have Craigslist parties), and I think that’s part of the reason they’re so entrenched in SF and NY. They obviously couldn’t do this everywhere they’ve expanded, and Kijiji has been able to take markets away from them…

Good luck with your venture!

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