Oodle Takes Aim at College Crowd

Oodle has broadened its regional classifieds aggregation strategy to include classifieds sites targeted toward students at colleges and universities.

College students are a ripe, but underserved audience for classified ads, Faith Sedlin, co-founder and VP of marketing at Oodle, told ClickZ News. “They’re online all the time — more than 90 percent are online every day. And they’re bargain-hunters,” Sedlin said. “We think they’re underserved because they’re not seeing all of the listings out there.”

As it does with its regional offerings, Oodle brings together classified listings from online sites like Craigslist, eBay and Monster to local, along with those from local and campus newspapers. Besides aggregating the listings in one place, Oodle applies its technology to “clean” the listings — estimating the quality of a listing, detecting and eventually rejecting spam listings, removing duplicate listings and embedding URLs as clickable links. It indexes the listings and makes them searchable from the Oodle site.

Oodle’s primary source of ad revenue continues to be contextual ads from Google’s AdSense program, which appear on the results pages. Future revenue models under consideration include upselling enhanced listings to advertisers, such as offering bolding and highlighting options; or charging listings providers a fee for preferred placement.

The company’s priority for the first year has been to build its audience. Oodle launched in March with three sites covering Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Since then, it has expanded to reach more than 30 metropolitan areas. Oodle will begin fleshing out its advertising plans by the end of the year, Sedlin said.

To grow its audience, Oodle has relied mainly on search engine marketing and word of mouth from its users. Most of its ad budget goes to text ads, both on search engine results and on contextual ad networks.

The college initiative is part of Oodle’s vertical efforts, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks, according to Sedlin. Besides a demographic vertical like college students, Oodle is preparing several subject-matter verticals, though she declined to say which ones were in the works.

Oodle also adds value to listings with services like email alerts, RSS feeds, and a “browse by map” feature, based on Google Maps. That feature lets users see all the search results that are within a geographic area. For its college sites, Oodle has also added textbook feeds, taken out some less relevant categories, and highlighted others, like internships and foosball tables.

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