It’s Hard to Compete With “Free”

I can’t remember who said, “writing’s the price I pay for hanging out,” but here’s the bill I ran up last night hearing Craig’s List CEO Jim Buckmaster field questions from a mix of American and British members of Glasshouse, a cross-sector society of entrepreneurs.

The most popular line of questioning was about the competition. And to the amazement of many attendees, that’s something Jim doesn’t think much about. “We don’t think in terms of competition. We don’t have the staff to mount a reaction. We just try to keep up with the user traffic.” Instead, their plan consists of “trying not to sell out their users in any way.” He poked fun at the rash of businesses that tried to adapt Craig’s List’s model (only job listings in NYC, LA, and San Fransisco cost, and New York apartment brokers will be added to that next month) to charge in more areas, pointing out “It’s hard to compete with ‘free.'”

One of the high points of the evening was when one guest wanted to know what he thought of listings seeking “skiing” partners on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, i.e. cocaine connections. Jim laughed and mentioned his obligation to cooperate in police inquiries.

Most surprising revelation of the night? References to sex workers (3) out numbered those to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (2).