I have a love-hate relationship with craigslist.
I love reading through the “best of” posts. I usually look for my housing through the site. I’ve been known to buy tickets to concert and games through craigslist.
On the flip side, I hate the free advertising, for my own selfish reasons. I hate the way people flock to the site, instead of placing their ads in a newspaper.
Among many other things, craigslist’s free ads have been one of the reasons for print media’s demise. So I was a little shocked to see craigslist founder Craig Newmark with his own column on SFGate.com — the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site. The Chronicle, like pretty much every newspaper in the country, has been hemorrhaging money. I just thought it was a little weird that they would give Web space to one of the guys who helped cause the downfall.
As I wrote for my final paper at San Diego State, a diagnosis of print media:
Though Craigslist does charge employers for job postings, most of its services are available at no charge. According to Alexa, the web information company, Craigslist is the 12th-most popular Web site in America (the New York Times’ site ranks 25th) and 38th-most popular site in the world. Newmark takes a bit of delight in knowing that his project’s popularity has diverted billions of dollars from newspapers. “Craig is not content to merely eat away at the business model of newspapers by chewing up their classifieds, from back to front. He’s also begun issuing vague pronouncements about citizen journalism, the people—his people—taking the news into their own hands. ‘I’m working with some folks on technologies that promise to help people find the most trusted versions of the more important stories,’ Craig said on his blog, further spooking the old-media types” (Weiss). The story’s author, Philip Weiss of New York Magazine, continues to write about how Craigslist has become a collaborative, communal force. But for newspapers, who are not in the hookup or rant and rave business, Craigslist is a destroying power. Money that in the past went to the advertising department now remains in readers’ hands. And, as discussed earlier, they aren’t spending it at the newsstand. People are wisely taking advantage of Craigslist’s free services, as they should, and not putting their ads in the paper, as they used to. “Ad revenue, the primary source of newspaper income, began sliding two years ago, and as hiring freezes turned to buyouts and then to layoffs, the decline has only accelerated,” Richard Perez-Peña of the New York Times wrote in June, noting that while online revenue has grown 20 to 30 percent annually for most of the decade, “(t)he Internet still accounts for less than 10 percent of newspaper ad revenue” (Peña). In the article about the declining revenue, Peña also mentioned the slumping economy. While that has hurt the industry too, it has done so more to the effect of adding water to a slide. It has hastened the fall, but not directly caused it. The lack of ad revenue has been the biggest detriment to newspapers, who in response have (as previously mentioned) dealt pink slips to great amounts of the industry’s workers. This is like amputating the leg to fix a broken foot. After a while, there will be no more limbs to cut off.