OPW INTERVIEW -- Aug 6, 2007 -- Oodle is trying to beat Craigslist at its own game by bringing together classifieds from numerous classifieds site on one site. Including personals. Here's my interview with their CEO, Craig Donato. - Mark Brooks
Tell us how Oodle got started.
I started the company back in early 2005. At the time, I was using classifieds for a number of different things and found the experience incredibly painful. I was finding great deals, but it was just too difficult. I was going to a lot of different sites, newspapers, local online sites, local community sites, etc. and then sorting through each of their listings. And because a lot of the classifieds data is unstructured, going through the listings was a fairly time-consuming and difficult process. On top of that, good listings were flipping very quickly. So if you were looking through the listings and found a great deal, you had to act right away. If you weren’t on top of it, it was gone before you knew it.
The whole process was a really big problem. So, it just occurred to me one day that there was an opportunity here. I could create a site where someone could see all the listings in a particular market and easily search through them thanks to normalized, well-structured data. On top of that, people could tell the site what it is they were looking for and when listings like that popped up, emails could be sent out to alert them. That was the founding vision behind Oodle – essentially to make shopping through the classifieds an easy process.
How do you drive traffic to your site?
We drive traffic in a number of different ways. We’re fortunate enough to have good growth. People keep coming back to our site. One week they may be looking for an apartment, the next for a job or new car. We do invest money into search engine optimization. We do a limited amount of search engine marketing, though not a lot. We also actively pursue and get distribution deals. We’ve done distribution deals with a number of different folks, like Lycos Classifieds. We also work with newspaper companies, like The Washington Post and the San Francisco Tribune. We’re actually working with a number of different local media organizations to power their classified sites.
How does Oodle make money?
Oodle makes money primarily by enabling the folks in our index to feature their listings. A while ago when we launched the service, our main revenue stream was advertising. And we started hearing from a lot of the folks in our index comments like, “We love the traffic we’re getting from Oodle. How do we get more?” It occurred to us that there was a great opportunity to allow the folks in our index to feature their listings.
Now, if a publisher wants to pay us, we’ll feature their listings. This has several benefits, including prominent search result rankings. For instance, if someone is looking for a Honda Accord and that publisher has a good Honda Accord ad, we will display it at the top of the results list. We also show featured listings in the right-hand bar. If there are multiple featured listings in the results, the top spot will go to the one with the highest bid. It’s a bidding-based model.