RealTime IT News

Analysts: Google to Open Classified Search

Analysts said that search leader Google is quietly moving to add classified ads to its index.

Google has been contacting publishers of Web-based classified advertising sites, requesting a direct feed of listings, according to Classified Intelligence, a research firm focused on the industry.

Recruitment site CareerBuilder is in discussions with Google, analyst John Zappe wrote in a research note on Tuesday, while Adicio, a provider of software that powers newspaper job sites, told Zappe that it was working with its affiliates to determine a response to Google's request.

A Google spokesperson said he couldn't confirm the speculation.

Google doesn't need a feed, Zappe wrote, but the Web-crawling and indexing process it uses would be very time-consuming and laborious.

"If the company can obtain a direct feed, parsing the data becomes easier, and indexing the listings is faster," he wrote. "It also puts less burden on the bandwidth and servers at the originating site."

Classified Intelligence Editorial Director Jim Townsend told internetnews.com that making classified ads available through an organic Google search would definitely change the game, but exactly how remains to be determined.

There are two schools of thought, he said. On the one hand, search provided additional distribution of the ad.

"If someone pays to place an ad in a newspaper, wouldn't it make sense to throw that paper on as many streets as possible? It's distribution, distribution, distribution," he said.

On other side of that coin, Townsend said, ads that are freely available through search could destroy the pricing model used by print and online classifieds publishers.

"Just as Craigslist had a lot to do with killing the paid real estate listings," Townsend said, "the more you give away for free, the harder it is to place a high value on it."

The stakes are high. In Jupiter Research's "U.S. Local Online Advertising Forecast, 2005 to 2010," released last week, analyst David Card forecast spending in the U.S. for online local advertising will grow at an annual compounded rate of 11 percent, or from 2005 to 2010 -- from $3.2 billion in 2005 to $5.3 billion in 2010.

Classified advertising will garner almost 70 percent of that total throughout the forecast period. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by the same corporation.)

Classified Intelligence estimates the worldwide classifieds market, in all its forms, at $100 billion per year.

Dion Lim, vice president of business development at SimplyHired, said the vertical portal for job search isn't worried about competition from Google.

SimplyHired offers metasearch of multiple job listings sites, along with tools to get more information and manage searches that can last for months.

"Google is validating that searchers want to go to one place to search all the jobs out there," he said. "But search is just one aspect of the experience."

SimplyHired lets users search using multiple criteria or filters. It also provides buttons under listings that let jobseekers check on the average salary for that position or see whether anyone they're connected to on social networking service LinkedIn could make an introduction.

Townsend said that the online classifieds industry will move from a pay-for-listing model to a pay-for-performance one. Instead of charging advertisers to post their ads, classifieds sites will get paid only if someone clicks on the ad.

In that model, search engines become their friends, because they can deliver a more qualified audience.

"What that's worth, we're going to have to see," Townsend said. "If it's proven to be the way to reach people, [pay-per-click] prices will rise again."