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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?