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eBay Brings Classifieds Site Kijiji To The U.S.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, U.S. print newspaper classified advertising was worth about $17 billion in 2006. The category has been under pressure for years from top online verticals, some of which are owned by newspapers, eBay, Craigslist and, now, new aggregators and destinations such as Oodle , LiveDeal and Edgeio, among others.

Now eBay has brought its Craigslist-inspired classifieds marketplace, Kijiji, to the U.S. market. The auction site acquired a 25 percent stake in Craigslist in 2004 and launched Kijiji in early 2005 outside the U.S. eBay owns in the U.S. as well as other classifieds listings sites in Europe.

According to comScore, as of mid-2006, there were almost 180 million monthly visitors to U.S. classifieds destinations. Craigslist was the category leader at almost 14 million uniques. Those numbers are undoubtedly larger now.

eBay has had a board seat (one of three) at Craigslist since it made the investment and there are ethical questions surrounding its continued participation given that the company is now unquestionably a direct competitor of Craigslist through Kijiji.

For the time being Kijiji listings are free, but eBay has indicated it may introduce premium listings or other paid services in the future.

While eBay is a formidable competitor and online brand its success in the category is not a foregone conclusion. There’s tremendous competition from well-established sites and more recent market entrants. And as a “horizontal” listings marketplace Craigslist “owns the brand.” Just as Google Base, misunderstood at launch as a Craigslist or eBay “killer,” has not done either, Kijiji is unlikely to have a materially negative impact on Craigslist.

It will, undoubtedly, contribute to the continuing migration of classified listings from print to online. Major newspapers, for their part, have been reacting to this trend for some time with varying degrees of success. More recently, most of the major newspaper publishers have joined forces with Yahoo to create a potentially powerful network and consortium that touches almost all 50 U.S. states and most local markets.