CHANGES ON THE WIND FOR CHICAGO’S CV

By: Staff reports

Classified Ventures To Build Mega Portal; Is IPO Next?



Classified Ventures Inc. has big plans for 2000. Among them is a blueprint to
unite its five classified verticals under an umbrella portal, says Mitch Golub,
the former leader of cars.com who was recently promoted senior vice president for
all of Classified Ventures. No time frame has been set for the portal’s
implementation.



While the company looks for a new national brand, rumors abound that the
Chicago-based group is headed toward an initial public offering, but a spokesman
denies the rumors. He says the genesis of the latest scuttlebutt is the recent
hiring of Bess Gallanis, the new vice president of corporate communications. She was
hired from a group that specializes in readying companies for IPOs, Financial
Relations Board/BSMG Worldwide, where she was partner and a director of its national
media relations department.



The company will soon move to a large office space to house its 450 employees in
downtown Chicago. Workers are presently split between two buildings.



‘It’s about monetizing and branding,’ Golub says of the portal plans. Organizing the
verticals together will create more ‘synergies’ between them, such as tying
MovingCenter.com with newhomenetwork.com and apartments.com. Cars.com and auctions.com
will have synergies as well, as cars.com races into the auto-auctioning space in 2000.



Classified Ventures is also looking for new verticals, perhaps for births, deaths,
weddings, and engagements. For example, consumers might be able to purchase online space
for a personalized wedding photo album, or a remembrance of a loved one who has recently
passed away, Golub says.



On the back end, the vast stockpiles of content and classifieds listings, now
inefficiently housed on separate servers for each vertical, will move to a single
publishing platform this year. The separate servers have made it difficult to expand and
cross-pollinate information between sites, so the company is making a multimillion-dollar
investment to merge the databases into one. The first verticals to move to the new system
will be real estate and cars, Golub says.



Golub views the company’s competition as the mammoth Internet players, such as eBay and
America Online, and to a much lesser extent, vertical players, such as autotrader.com,
autobytel.com, and carpoint.com. ‘If you look at an AOL or Amazon and look at how big
their footprint is, even though they don’t have a local play or a local relationship, they
have significant dollars,’ Golub says. He adds that Classified Ventures continues to spend
millions of dollars with AOL in their cars.com distribution agreement because it drives
significant traffic.



‘Brand building is important to any national company,’ Golub says. To that end, the company’s
scores of newspaper affiliates continue to build their own brands locally while also building
a brand for Classified Ventures with newspaper, billboard, TV, and radio advertisements.
‘I’m not sure eBay or AOL is going to do that,’ he says. ‘It’s going to take more than
national promotion. I think the war has just begun.’



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Staff reports









(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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