One of the keys to being successful in business is keeping an eye on your industry – and your competitors. Over the past several years, the classified ads industry, like so many others, has been through its own periods of challenging times. Some of the companies – Geebo included – have adopted new strategies or developed new partnerships to bring something unique to the playing field.

Geebo, for example, partners with a site called wegolook.com so that buyers of big-ticket items listed in Geebo’s ads in other parts of the country can dispatch an inspector to take a closer look before the transaction is finalized. It’s a differentiator that helps make Geebo unique.

For some time, I’ve been watching Oodle, a competitor that’s steadily been focusing its business model around social networking, specifically Facebook and its marketplace. Bringing buyers and sellers together via their online friends, as well as their friends of friends, was Oodle’s differentiator. And it seemed to be working for them.

So, imagine my eyebrow raise when I read last month that Oodle was being acquired by QVC – yeah, that QVC, the shopping company. In blog posts, just as anyone might expect, both companies praise the deal, playing up each other’s strengths and how this will impact the growing world of social commerce.

It’s definitely an interesting approach and one that probably still has a lot of potential to be shaped, re-defined and groomed.. But I will admit that I also wondered if this is a case of big company swallowing smaller company, tapping into the best of what it does and sacrificing the rest of it down the road. Certainly, I don’t know that to be true, but a post on Techcrunch last month suggested that QVC was especially interested in Oodle’s mobile platform – which would make sense. The question is how much of the rest of Oodle is QVC interested in. At some point we’ll find out.

I’m a big believer in independence for a company, an investor-free approach that allows a founder-executive to call the shots for the long-term good of the company, instead of for the quick return. I only mention this because, Techcrunch also notes that, in an earlier interview, Oodle execs believed that, through social, they could compete with and possibly even become a major challenger to the biggest players in the classifieds business.

Is that the way this will play out for Oodle now? Or will the dream that a small company once had be reduced to a bullet point on an annual corporate goals strategy presentation?

Who knows how this will turn out? Like any good businessman, I’ll be watching to see what works and what doesn’t in my industry.