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Cars.com Listings Hit Mobile Devices

A Web search for "mobile auto classifieds" is more likely to result in listings for used cars in Alabama than to help users access auto classifieds via wireless devices. A new mobile service from Cars.com will change that. The auto listings site has teamed with Crisp Wireless to let people search all its auto classifieds and other content through mobile devices.

At first, a single unnamed advertiser will be the sole sponsor of the mobile site, but more ad opportunities will be made available as traffic builds. "I do believe targeting and contextual information will be very important," said Cars.com Director of Product Management Sharon Knitter. Users will be able to click to call auto sellers via the new service, as well as e-mail listings to others.

At this point, mobile classified advertising is at a minimum, according to Pete Conti, VP at local media research firm Borrell Associates. "When we look into the numbers they are not high enough for us to track with any degree of accuracy. We believe that the amount of revenue is somewhere beneath the lint of our pockets."

All of the more than two million auto listings available on Cars.com's Web site will be viewable and searchable in the mobile environment. The expectation is for users to seek out listings, reviews and auto news, or use payment calculators while in the pre-purchase research stage. However, as people grow accustomed to using their cell phones and PDAs for more immediate comparison shopping purposes, dealers could see more buyers accessing mobile listings, photos or information on nearby dealers while at their dealerships.

"The vast majority of people are still going to do most of their research at home," said Knitter, who believes people will eventually use the service often while on dealer lots. "Dealers know this happens today?.It reinforces the things we're trying to do to empower the user," she added.

Mobile Web site developer Crisp Wireless is providing the platform for integrating Cars.com's data feeds with the wireless site. "It's a complex integration, but it's easy to use from the consumer's perspective," said Debora Bluman, VP of Product Marketing at Crisp Wireless. "The most important thing for [Cars.com] was for [users] to get the updated listings while on the lot."

Crisp typically builds and deploys mobile sites for media firms, and counts USA Today, NBC Universal, Hachette Filipacchi and Weather Channel Interactive among its clients. The company also can connect its platform to third party ad servers or use its own ad serving platform.

Other mobile classifieds services do exist. For instance, Cox's PalmBeachPost.com partners with CellSigns to provide access to wireless classifieds in auto, real estate and other categories.

Peter Zollman, founding principal and executive editor of Classified Intelligence doesn't think too many people are using mobile devices to check out listings on the spot. However, he said the ability to find information on vehicles readily can be "one of the bad things for car dealers," adding, "Car dealers benefit from obscure pricing. They have lost in most cases that obscurity that made pricing such a seller's game."

Still, he continued, "Every advertiser wants distribution," meaning the dealer down the road will be pleased to have potential buyers viewing his listings while on a competitor's lot. "He's thrilled to be able to reach him just before he makes a purchase," Zollman said. "As an advertiser it makes little sense to be unhappy with things like that."

Separately, Cars.com is sponsoring ABC?s summertime TV series ?Fast Cars & Superstars -- Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race."

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