Yahoo Throws Down Classifieds Gauntlet with New Division

As local search, online classifieds, and Web business directories continue what seems to be an inevitable merger, Yahoo has planted a stake firmly at the crossroads. The firm announced today a new classifieds and listings division and the appointment of newspaper industry veteran, Hilary Schneider, to steer the U.S. unit.

In her role as SVP of Marketplaces, Schneider is charged with developing the division’s classifieds and listings strategy, including introducing innovative ways to profit from Yahoo’s various listings offerings. The Marketplaces unit will encompass the broad array of Yahoo’s listings properties, including Autos, Classifieds, HotJobs, Personals, Real Estate, Shopping and Auctions, Travel, and Yellow Pages.

Schneider most recently hails from now-defunct newspaper publisher Knight Ridder, where she co-managed operations and led its digital division as SVP. In the past, she held CEO positions at Red Herring Communications and Times Mirror Interactive. Schneider also served in multiple roles at The Baltimore Sun Company. Schneider starts her new job on September 18 in Sunnyvale, CA, reporting to Yahoo’s EVP of Finance and Administration and CFO Susan Decker.

Schneider’s move from the newspaper business to the online heavyweight mirrors the overall progression of newspaper ad dollars from print to the Web, often towards non-newspaper sites like portals, search engines and job and real estate classifieds sites.

Although the new division will surely affect internal operations at Yahoo, no changes to the newly-tethered classifieds and listings operations will be reflected on Yahoo’s Web site, according to a Yahoo spokeswoman. “This won’t change the consumer relationship,” she said, adding that the Marketplaces unit will join the existing pieces of Yahoo’s listings business “effective immediately.”

For now, Schneider will focus strictly on Yahoo’s listings business in the U.S., according to the spokeswoman, who would not comment on future plans regarding the potential for an extension of the unit beyond the states.
“This is a big horse entering the race,” commented Colby Atwood, president of local media research firm Borrell Associates, in regard to Yahoo’s Marketplaces plans. “It’s an ambitious agenda, but it makes sense,” he continued. “Local online advertising is the final frontier for everybody.”

A recent report from Borrell showed local online banner ads and classified listings will account for 73 percent of online local ad dollars by 2007, dropping by nearly a quarter to 49 percent of local Web ads by 2010.

“[Online listings] prices are being forced down by competition, so the amount of money that’s actually being spent on those ads could go flat, or even go down, even though the amount of advertising goes up,” explained Atwood.

Yahoo in May forged an agreement with eBay by which Yahoo is serving ads and paid search results to eBay, and Yahoo search results will display more up-to-date eBay product listings. Although Yahoo’s Shopping and Auctions listings business will be folded into the Marketplaces unit, another Yahoo spokesperson told ClickZ News, “This change has no effect on the eBay deal.”

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