Craigslist and the Media

Tradional media continue to grapple with new media. Last night's episode of Nightline had a segment on Craig Newmark and his Internet-classifieds Website. While the show devoted some time to smiling customers, it mostly focused on the negative aspects of Craigslist. Besides a quick mention of the shady nature of the Casual Encounter section of Craigslist, there was the complaint that the site is hurting the newspaper business, stealing away those who would buy classified ads. According to Nightline, this shift has created an annual loss of $50 million in San Francisco alone. Newmark retorted that his site is serving customers in a way that newspaper classifieds can't.

Nightline's criticism felt like a sad defense of old media by old media. Why must Newmark and Craigslist answer for the papers' failings? Craigslist has become one of the top Websites in the world (3 billion page views per month) as new features and additional cities have been added to the line-up. Users preach the virtues of the free classified service. I think Craigslist shows the value of presenting people a free service with wide capabilities (Google also comes to mind). If anything, traditional media should learn from such online innovators and adapt more quickly to the new landscape, rather than complain about it.

What do you think about this criticism of Craigslist? Are traditional media's gripes against online media legitimate or just sour grapes?

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  • Nik

    Craigslist is an example of a new form of society. It's in the same vein as open source software. It's primary concern is not about making money. It's closer to sharing. It's cooperation. It's connections. It has changed and helped my life so much that I can't even begin to say.
    It's good to take down the old structure with this kind of cooperative community. I look forward to what the world will look like with more of the same.

    I hope the "old media" and the powers it represents don't get so scared and angry about losing their position that they upset the whole apple cart instead of stopping to smell the roses.

  • gkapo

    Craig's list rocks. What surprises me is that my local paper, which is free, and amply supported by local real estate business community, has not seen fit to put their classified stuff on the internet, a'la Craig's

  • Susan

    I believe that Craigslist measures the pulse of some of our largest cities. It's a reflection of what's going on in each. I visit craigslist to get a flavor of what's happening - the job listings, the news bits, the real estate.

    It's a great jumping off place on the web, and a great example of what's good about "new media." Sure, there are problems with any form of communication, with any website, but in my book, the good outweighs the bad, nearly every time.

    I also believe that competition for classified advertising is good news, not bad. As business people, and as humans, we all must find creative ways to reach out and serve, ways that are accessible to people, that meet them where they are. I applaud Craigslist for its simplistic design - no fanfare - and its innovation.

  • Martha Mendoza

    When Gutenberg invented movable type, monastic scribes cried sour grapes.

    It's the way of the world.

    Adapt or perish.

  • tomg

    I share a personal experience as food for thought...

    I own a retail business and was looking to hire a couple of employees. I can pay $295 for 30 days in the local newpaper (which includes an online ad) in my city (Dallas) or nothing to craigslist.

    The real question is... do I want a person who isn't saavy enough to look beyond a printed relic, like a newspaper, for a job? Probably not.

    For proof, I actually used both options as a test and found much better candidates from Craigslist than the $295 advertisement.

  • muldrec

    Traditional media, as well as the music and movie industry has missed the boat relative to Internet-based technology.

    Their adoption has been either "toe-dipping' or none at all, as opposed to full-scale adoption or better yet, leadership in the deployment of Internet-based technology.

    Newspapers had their opportunity to implement "Craigslist" for themselves. They could now have controlled and led the direction of this type of advertisement. But as always, they and their counterparts as listed above, are followers.

    Followers should not complain. They should learn to lead.

  • Rick

    I think it's actually quite funny. If you paraphrase the complaint by the "old media", it would sound something like this.

    "Craiglist is being mean to us. They came up with a way to provide better service to the consumer than we can - and they aren't even charging for it. Why would they do that to us? It's just downright mean - and I'm going to tell on them."

    You really have to laugh at the idiocy of that position.

  • Mark

    Who watches Nightline anymore. That's old media talking about old media. Are they not getting a clue here?

  • Saru

    I'll wait to anoit Craigslist the victor until it finds a way to serve the vast spaces of the U.S. that are not in major cities. I moved from the Bay Area--where I used Craigslist constantly--to a medium-sized town in the Midwest that only has newspaper classifieds and--unbelievably--radio classifieds (how fast can you write?). And I should mention that the newspaper ads are so terse, because of price, as to be meaningless: "1 bd $450 555-1234." That tells me next to nothing.

    Mr. Newmark seems to think he has won, just read about his massive ego and baseless future plans in a recent New York magazine article; however, while his vision possesses great breadth (apartments to jobs to message boards) it is utterly lacking in depth. Finish the job, Craig!

  • Craig Newmark

    I think I hear the Waaaaaaahmbulance coming....To the "old" media, don't be jealous that's a female trait.

  • Bob

    There's nothing people haven't said about old vs. new, but I will note that in having come across craigslist 6 years ago (!), it has changed dramatically in that time. It used to be very much oriented toward the individual and not so much people being in business, literally or otherwise, to make money off people, but that approach is gone. It used to be that car ads placed by dealers would be removed because the site was a place for people to sell a car if they got a bigger/smaller one, etc. Show/event tickets placed by obvious scalpers would be removed because craigslist was supposed to be a site where people could break even if they ended up with a spare ticket or two.

    In both those respects and others, those sections have been overrun by dealers and scalpers.

    Craig as said a couple different things about that. He has said that he/they can't determine which tickets are being sold for more than their value and that the site, for good or ill, reflects the community.

    As for the former, of course he could determine which tickets are being scalped or at least those that are a lot above the face value. As people note, his model brings in a helluva lot of money so he could pay a few college students to moderate the items-for-sale areas. It would take very little effort to monintor site areas, have knowledge of ticket prices for major and ongoing events (like baseball games) and pull scalpers' ads. Sure they would not be 100 percent perfect, but they would get a lot and it would discourage scalpers if it was clear that this was going on.

    As for the latter, my sense was that the whole premise of craigslist was not to reflect the community, but to be/carve out a niche for the decent people in the broader community.

    Maybe that was not so, but it's clearly more about the money these days--and that's fine. But I get tired of hearing Craig or other people talk about how grandly honorable he is.

  • Marianne Powers

    Newspaperpeople, don't even try to beat them, just join them right away. You have the advantage because you have the credibility. Put everything online. It's never too late to start doing things right. Don't forget to blog! Or at least let us put comments on every single article.

  • Bill Ricardi

    Newspapers who claim they're losing business to Craig's List need to get into the game.

    Today, there are half a dozen ways to sell your information over digital media. Your newspaper can be streaming to cell phones, available on the web, or even piped into massively multiplayer games. The "people won't pay for online content" doesn't fly, because people ARE paying for online content. They're paying for GOOD online content.

    An OCR scan of your newsprint doesn't cut it these days. Your paper needs to be searchable. It needs to be cross-linked with relevant information. Your classifieds need to be searchable and ACTIONABLE.

    Imagine the newspaper 'of the future'. You see an ad for Vonage, you click on it, and everything gets delivered to your door. Now you can make Voice Over IP (VOIP) calls using your broadband connection. So you click on a classified ad and, lo and behold, it asks you if you would like to call the vendor! You do, and you arrange for the product to be delivered. Your newspaper account helps you track your order's shipping status, your classified purchase history, and lets you leave feedback.

    These newspapers are crazy to think they're in this alone. Vendors like Vonage and UPS would bend over backwards to help them create a system that defaults users to their services! Anything they're losing on individual paper sales would be made up in affiliate fees. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    Any newspaper CEO's who want to talk about making their online content profitable can drop me a line. As an Internet entrepreneur, I can tell you that the only thing holding you back is the way you're thinking. There's gold in them there hills.

  • creesto Lynch

    Remember when newspapers SHAPED the way Americans thought about politics, morals, crime, corruption, etc.? Heck, I can remember when newspapers was the dominant media and they didn't hesitate to push their owner's personal agenda. Randolph? Can you hear me? The newspaper media is disgustingly old and out of date. If they are worried about Craigslist's simple little site, then they must be poking their heads up out of the sand for the first time, when the wind has been blowing against them for over 15 years. Time to pull the plug or get on board. Losers.

  • Jillayne Schlicke

    7 years ago I cancelled my subscription to the Seattle Times. When they called to ask why, I told them that I could read everything I wanted to on their website. Further, I told them that if they could give me a way to customize the news I received from them via email, I WOULD PAY for that service. The person interviewing me said, "oh, we already know that people won't pay for online content." Well, okay then but why not make your advertisers pay a little more for customized clicks to make up for the lost revenue?

    google.com home page allows me to get 3 news stories on the topic of my choice every day. I can easily change this from what it is today: "ethics" to what I'll be studying next quarter: "Foucault."

    Old media sounds resentful. This is a weak position. Become a warrior or you will die.

  • dina

    our "pro-capitalist" society should be welcoming the competition and new technologies that craigslist is providing...however, working in the advertising community, i see these types of companies whining about not being the status quo and working themselves into obsolecence by not looking at the trends of their own industry. in the 90s, agencies went out of business because they refused to buy computers...its the same situation now with old media refusing to implement new technologies.

    its true that these are exactly the people reporting (the newspapers) the new technologies, just the same as the people that are marketing (the ad agencies) the new technologies, yet they stubbornly stick to old business models.

    the markets are changing and those that refuse to change with it/adapt to it, will disappear.

    -------
    and an aside on craigslist. there are problems with all forms of media. the magic of craigslist is that amazing communities are created within it like i've never seen or been part of before. while living in san francisco, it was a saving grace in meeting new people, making friends and finding activities.

    craigslist is an innovator. its shaping our culture, creating communities and providing social interaction between people in our increasingly isolated society, that for some reason, whether it be lack of trust, lack of relevance in reporting...that others (perhaps newspapers) haven't been able to replicate.

  • Jen Lapan

    I think it's a given that this complaint is complete crap. The music industry, as described above, the photography industry too! The Kodak company could have gone completely under, but instead they developed digital cameras, printers, etc. Times are changing! Personally, I am elated to be alive during the internet and communication revolution that will possibly never be as large as it's been in the past ten years ever again in our lifetime. Craig is a role model in our modern society.

  • alex

    You know, the music industry did the same thing. Instead of forging ahead, embracing technology, protecting their artists....developing the standards. The standards moved ahead and developed around them. The old media, american car companies like the recording industry are lagging behind. Instead of being proactive, they now find themselves in a reactive mode.

  • TH

    I'm sure the newspaper industry had and probably still does have a much larger budget than Craig. They had an opportunity and missed it. It's just sour grapes.