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New ways of selling ads stress the social side of the web

Yeah, yeah, we all know newspaper classifieds are under direct attack from sites like Craigslist and Kijiji and even Facebook’s Marketplace, but the reality is that classified ads are such a clear winner in the race to monetize the web (there, I said it, now I promise not to use the term for the rest of the year) that many, many people are trying to innovate in that space, trying to come up with the next ebay or …. well, Craigslist.
What many of these innovators have in common is their efforts to harness the power of the social web to give their classified ad model that much more value. (This really isn’t so new – think of the "seller’s reputation" on  e-bay or the "other readers who bought this book, also bought …." in Amazon – both offer users really useful, user-supplied information to help  make smarter purchase decisions.)
Here’s two quick examples:
Thembid.
This  interesting variation on classified ads was one of the start-up companies featured at the recent Tech Crucnch 40 conference – (Beware – browsing through that list of 40 Web 2.0 companies will chew through your afternoon at a truly alarming rate.)
The idea behind (the,I think horribly-named) Thembid is that consumers post the things they want on the site (for free) and businesses ‘bid’ to provide it for them. "Don’t search-make them bid" is the site’s motto.
Going there today I see a fellow in California who wants wants someone to add another 2 feet of height to his 75 foot long wall. As I write he’s received 5 ‘bids" on the job, ranging from $900 to $2000 from contractors. Thembid says they offer a rating service which will assist consumers in choosing who to work with based on the recommendations of other users. Although posting ‘asks’ and ‘bids’ is free, Thembid says they’ll make money by upselling the businesses.
Will it work? Maybe – if they can build a lively, local community. Is it a model local newspapers could learn from? Again, I think maybe. I’m just not sure how you make money off it.
The other site is Jellyfish – a start-up that was just snapped up by Microsoft.
Jellyfish is a shopping search engine with a difference – actually a host of differences. They offers users the whole social web experience – you get your own page, you can hook up with other shoppers, trade tips and recommendations etc. They hold reverse auctions,"Smack" shows, where a specific (and secret) number of items are sold at auction with the price dropping continuously. They work hard to make shopping online sociable and fun.
But the the real difference about Jellyfish ("We Share!") is not the auctions or the gay graphics, but the unique pricing model – advertisers, whose products and services are listed in the Jellyfish shopping search engine only pay for their ‘advertising’ when they make a sale – and Jellyfish promises to SHARE THE COMMISSION with the buyer. Every item you search for in the search engine shows the prices – plus the cashback you’ll get from Jellyfish.
Will this model work?
Microsoft obviously thinks so – but who knows? The point is, I think, how far beyond "selling space" web advertising is going.
Bill Dunphy

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