Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cars.com for iPad: Classified Ventures's first iPad app; look for an app update to soon follow

The last time I wrote about an app that was upside down the independent developer wrote me immediately to beg me to delete the post. I told them that I couldn't do that and was accused of trying to get him fired. I told him I'd make sure to update the story as soon as he issued an update to the app (which happened a couple of days later, which is why I won't link to that story now, no need for more embarrassment).
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Yep, this is really how the app opens!


I never thought I'd see another upside down app, but here is another, this one from the folks at Classified Ventures, the online classified company owned by A.H. Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., Tribune Company, The McClatchy Company and The Washington Post Company.

Cars.com for iPad is really not one of the better apps I've seen in a while. Yes, it is upside down. But, really, this is no big deal. All the user has to do is turn their iPad around to begin using the app. I assume something like this happens in the development process. (Some users, if they are holding their tablet in the right way, won't even notice.)

The real problem with the app is that looks like it was designed by a team of people more interested in just getting an app out than by classified advertising professionals (if there are any of them anymore).

Maybe it is the fact that I was a CAM for many years, but I'm still a big believer in classified advertising – even if most of the newspaper industry has just plain given up. Both the web, and now mobile and tablets are a great opportunities to reclaim the category.

But this app is just going through the motions. The app, for one thing, is single-sponsored – in this case by Lexus. Bad idea. Classified advertising is about volume. This app could have been a gold mine.

For another, the entries on the new cars contains very little information, and few photos. If the Cars.com team had worked with the manufacturers they could have set up better entries that contained more information and more photos and video. (Of course, this app could be updated later to do this.)

Instead, the editorial copy is limited to a couple of bullet points on each car. Worse, the app tries to be "fair". No!!! If you want reviews go to Motor Trend or the website The Truth About Cars. Classified is about sales. Let's sell!! (Real classified folks like to sell, it isn't a sin. The whole idea is that you have a used car to sell, and we help you sell it. What could be simpler and more honest.)

This app just seems like an effort to drive car buyers to the Cars.com website, which is what happens if you tap on the "View Inventory on Cars.com" button.
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The app, once you have turned around your iPad, contains minimal information.


The challenge of a true classified app for autos are those used car listings. That is why the icon clearly states "New Cars". But why call the app "Cars.com for iPad" then? In essence they have used up that name and if they ever launch another app will have to go in another direction.

We'll have to wait for the first good car sales app to be released. For now the auto companies are doing a good job on their own. What is really needed is a classified app that utilizes the iPad's abilities: video, photos, e-mail, texting (that will come with iOS5). My guess that a new company will come into the space, one more comfortable with the platform. Don't expect that from the old media companies.



There are a couple of other car sales apps in the App Store such as CarZen: Research & Buy New and Used Cars, and, of course, Craig's List's app contains used car listings.

AutoTrader.com currently has an iPhone app in the App Store, but nothing for the iPad. I'm sure they are either working on something, or at least thinking about it, right?

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