You’ve all heard of Craig’s List, which allows most classified ads to be run for free, and is 25% owned by eBay. And you know about Google Base, a beta offering from Google that some have termed an “eBay killer,” because it allows sellers to post items for free. Now comes a new version of classified ads from Denmark, coming from a surprising source—a leading Danish newspaper publisher. And it’s free, too.
FindAlt (Danish for “find everything”) debuted today, a completely free online service for classified ads that already offers almost one million products and plans to double that number “within days” according to Carsten Rysgaard, Market Director at Berlingske Digital, the online arm of Denmark’s largest media company. The smallest items all the way up to used cars and even homes are for sale already.
I met Carsten in Denmark last week as the company readied for launch. He explained what a big step it is for a media company to consider cannibalizing its lucrative classified business for a free model. In print newspapers charge for each ad posted, so how can they give it away on line?
Carsten explained that all revenue will come from advertising that is shown alongside the classified listing itself. So, for example, it’s free to post an item for sale, but if multiple vendors post the same item, they might want to show advertising to entice buyers to purchase from them rather than a competitor. “This will only work if more than one seller wants to offer the same item,” Carsten told me, but it seems to me that situation will happen frequently enough that there is a good business here. The advertising system is not available today, but is promised in a few weeks.
As with shopping search sites, vendors can use an XML feed to upload their entire product catalog. Most shopping search sites charge to add products and all (except Froogle) charge a per-click fee when products are viewed or a per-action fee when products are purchased. If FindAlt adds the kind of faceted searching capability seen in shopping search engines, that would create a formidable competitor to Kelkoo and others within Denmark.
For those of us who expect to find innovation in all the usual places, it’s nice to see Denmark showing other newspapers around the world one response to the Internet. With 90% of Danes using the Internet (over 60% with broadband), this seems like a good place to find the new newspaper model.