Buzzfeed writer calls Marketplace an abomination

24 Mar 2017

Buzzfeed reporter Katie Notopoulos doesn’t like Facebook Marketplace. As in, she really doesn’t like it — her latest article is titled “Facebook Marketplace Kinda Sucks”.

Notopoulus has lots of complaints about Marketplace, which she calls in the first line of her piece “a strange abomination in your Facebook mobile app”.

Her main gripe is that she finds the items for sale on Marketplace a hodgepodge of the old, the ugly and the overpriced.

“The vibe is definitely more ‘I need to get rid of this crap’ than great finds,” she quips.

Clearly, Notopoulus has never visited any of Facebook Marketplace’s competition, such as OfferUp and LetGo, which feature a similar mix of the stuff garage sales are made of.

But hidden in the Buzzfeed article are a couple of insights Facebook would be smart to take note of — even from a writer clearly trying to generate buzz from a provocative post. Says Notopoulus:

One thing Marketplace reveals is that left to ourselves, we’re terrible free-market capitalists. Sellers aren’t coming up with a price based on competition…so what you get is people just making up a price based on what they think it should be.

That’s true on other general classified apps and websites — it’s just exacerbated by the relative newness of Marketplace.

But what if Facebook were to develop a tool to help sellers come up with accurate prices? LetGo and OfferUp don’t offer that. It would address Notopoulus’s concern and make Marketplace a better product.

Notopoulus also pointed out that Marketplace breaks a core Facebook experience:

You see strangers. Normally you’re only ever seeing people you know, or perhaps friends of friends tagged in a photo or post.

Does this mean that Marketplace is a bad fit for Facebook? Not necessarily. The predecessors to Marketplace — Facebook’s long-standing Buy & Sell groups — also introduce you to people you don’t know; it’s the nature of building a robust e-commerce site.

We also know that limiting Marketplace-like groups just to friends doesn’t work either: Canada’s Diggit tried that model and failed. Another Canadian site, VarageSale, which requires buyers and sellers to be vetted by a local community manager, has also struggled.

Still, Notopoulus raises a good point, and we wonder whether any other Facebook users have found the “abomination” in their app to be off-putting for that reason — or others.

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.