EBay has quietly announced that it will change the confusing name of its classified site, Kijiji, to EBay classified, bringing a better brand awareness to a site that many people can’t even spell. EBay claims it’s doing this on a test basis in San Antonio and Pittsburgh only. Don’t bet on this being just a test, folks. EBay has seen its future, and it’s going to be labeled EBay Classified, across the country.
EBay has been preparing for this for a long time. In 2004, EBay purchased a 25% ownership stake in Craig’s List, for the purpose of learning how the classified business worked. EBay learned fast, launching a classified site about a year later. EBay didn’t learn much about marketing since it launched a site with a really funny name. Four years after the Kijiji launch, EBay is fixing the branding problem — and that presents a real problem for newspapers that could be the final nail in the classifieds coffin.
EBay is a behemoth. It has strong market reach across every portion of the country, and has an audience of about 50 million unique visitors a month, according to Nielsen. Yes, EBay’s audience has been shrinking, but it still has a long way to go before it loses its muscle.
EBay, if it plays this smart, will be able to go on the attack and use its resources to smother targeted communities with tempting offers of free online classified ads. EBay could even pair its classified reach with its auctions. Can you see a car ad on EBay classifieds announcing the auction date or Buy It Now price? I can. Not only would I pair those services, I’d attempt to convince the dominate local media property that the only way to survive is get rid of its existing classified business, partner with EBay, and take a small share of the revenue.
And I can, unfortunately, see newspapers reacting slowly, especially in a time when every penny is precious. Instead of attacking back with radical strategies, newspapers will try to hold on to every classified penny for as long as they can.
They’ll do that until there are no more pennies to hold on to.