Colliding With The Social Web

Interview with Geebo CEO, Greg Collier

The growth of online classifieds has continued, even though online spending has diminished with the recession and bad press has plagued some online classified sites, like Craigslist. I had a chance to interview Greg Collier, CEO of Geebo, about how his company has fared over the last several months, his view of the industry and where Geebo is headed in the future.

Michael Hackmer:
For people who are not familiar with Geebo. What is Geebo?

Greg Collier:
Geebo is classified ads format with everything from roommates and real estate to jobs. It is a site that was developed in late 1999 when the company was located in Sacramento, CA, and was designed to compete against the local town newspaper – The Sacramento Bee. We felt they were doing a so-so job in presentation, layout and navigation, and we thought that we could create a better online classifieds community. Today, the company is based in McLean, VA and I am proud to say that we have grown and are now in 143 communities in the United States.

Michael Hackmer:
What makes you different from other online classified companies in the digital media space?

Greg Collier:
One way we are different is that all our job postings are syndicated, which means if you post a job on Geebo they will get picked up by SimplyHired, Indeed, Tweet Mart, TwitterJobSearch.com, Google Base, Hispanic-jobs.com and several others. We did this to benefit our advertisers, and to help increase their exposure and grow the demographics their job posts reach.

Michael Hackmer:
Since Geebo has been around for about ten years now, competing against newspapers, Craigslist and others, how have you seen online classifieds evolve?

Greg Collier:
It’s been an interesting time. When we came on the scene, there was really nobody else out there other than the newspapers and a handful of online operators. We did not even know about Craigslist for the first few months. At the time we started, Craigslist was still exclusively in San Francisco. Newspapers were very limited in their online presentation of classifieds. In most cases, you could not contact someone who posted on a newspaper by email – you had a call a phone number. But until online classified communities like Geebo and Cragislist came around, newspapers had no real competition. The web changed all that. The cost of doing business online is lower, and with the expansion of internet use – there is a lot more opportunity and a lot more competition.

Michael Hackmer:
Speaking to the growing use of the Internet, the expansion of broadband access and computer access has provided a lot of value. However, there are some growing challenges facing online communities, including the rise in criminal activity online. This has created a growing interest among users of online classifieds in safety. Does Geebo take any particular steps to ensure greater safety for people who use your online classifieds?

Greg Collier:
You are absolutely right, unfortunately, about there being some bad people out there using online classifieds. These things are out there, and it’s been going on for a while. We have been watching this trend. A few years ago we considered implementing an adult service section, but asked ourselves, “What comes along with that?” We quickly decided that was not a direction we wanted to go in. So, we’ve kept adult content off Geebo. We also do not have a rants and raves section, because that has opened the door to a lot of hate speech and other challenges. But no site is immune to people making scandalous or harmful posts. So, we’ve developed some safeguards. In certain sections of the site, a person on our team reviews the content before it is posted. We also block IP addresses from repeat offenders. No system is full-proof, but we think these controls definitely give us a safer environment.

Michael Hackmer:
You’re a small company, but part of your corporate mission is to give back to the communities you reach. What does Geebo do in terms of community service?

Greg Collier:
Well, that is part of the business I am most proud of and enjoy. This past September we helped co-sponsor the National Press Club’s 5k run. We’ve donated programming services, for example, to OneBrick.org, which promotes volunteerism. We’ve donated job postings to non-profits. In fact, all non-profits are able to post jobs free of charge, they just need to contact us and we can set that up. We’ve been involved in Sierra Adoption Services, The Child and Family Institute and the Mustard Seed School. Also, after Hurricane Katrina we helped restaurants that were struggling to hire people to reach out through out network to help fill urgent vacancies. We hope to be able to much more, and more on a larger scale as time goes – as the business and revenues grow.

Michael Hackmer:
You mention revenues. No one has been immune from the economic conditions that continue to make it struggle for businesses. Unemployment is up past 10%. What has the economic downturn done to a company like Geebo? And the industry as a whole?

Greg Collier:
Well, our income is down 25% from the same time last year. I’ve spoke to many business owners who are struggling. While I am not pleased, I’ve heard other businesses are suffering even greater losses. Newspapers and other companies are cutting 8% and 10% of their staff. We have not had to go that far, so we are fortunate in that respect. Clearly, the economy is not rebounding as quickly as we would like and this will impact advertising and hiring well in the future, not just for Geebo, but for everyone. To combat this to a degree, we are expanding the reach of our job postings to give our advertisers as much bang for the buck as possible.

Michael Hackmer:
Even though the economy is not recovering as fast as we all would like, it will recover at some point. What does Geebo have planned for the future? And what do you see for the industry going forward?

Greg Collier:
I think content sharing will expand and classified sites will get better in their design, connecting the content they provide to social media outlets, through mobile technology and other mediums. For Geebo, we are working on some media partnerships where Geebo will power media company classifieds. We will tap into Twitter more as well so more people see the jobs that come from Geebo. We also are going to implement a more SEO-friendly website in the near future.

Listen to the full interview which will be aired on The Mike Hackmer Radio Show, Sunday, November 15th at 12:00 pm, Eastern. To hear to program, go to: http://www.hackmer.com/live.htm

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