April 5th, 2007

Craigslist Openness vs. Newspaper Trust


If Craigslist is killing the newspaper classified business, then it appears that newspapers’ real missed opportunity may be in failing to provide a sufficiently conducive environment for seeking and selling sex and love.

Craigslist Categories

Reading this analysis by Compete was one of those Doh! Of course! moments (and, as a commenter on the Compete post points out, obvious to anyone who bothers to look at listing counts on Craigslist). Sex-related content has lead every technological revolution in media. Why should classifieds be any different?

To get a sense for how newspapers measure up again Craigslist, I checked out the personal ads on the New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. So what’s the big difference between web-native Craigslist and the newspapers’ online version of their print cash cow?

Craigslist is an open platform.

The Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle required registration, clearly with the intent of legitimizing all participants in the personals marketplace. The Chronicle’s registration process is quite intensive, with minimum word requirements for describing yourself. The New York Times has this barrier:

To respond to an ad call: 1-900-226-7144 ($2.99 /min with a $2.00 connection fee.) Must be 18 years or older to call. Charges are accrued for each minute for the duration of the call. If you would like to pay via credit card: 1-866-423-7761 ($3.49 per minute)

On Craigslist you post for free, and respond for free by email — quick, easy, no friction.

The big question, of course, is this: Is Craigslist better because it has no bariers or standards, or worse? I guess it all depends on who you are and what you’re seeking.

Newspapers probably have the right positioning with their barriers to entry for personals — TRUST is the only reason to choose a familiar local newspaper brand over Craigslist. If you don’t want a newspaper acting as a filter in your quest for intimacy, you’d better be prepared to BYOFilter.

In any case, Compete also points out interestingly that Craiglist, for all its glorification, hasn’t cornered the classified market for everything:

Local news, business supplies for sale, real estate and web design are probably better off advertising somewhere else since they contribute less than a whisper to the overall site traffic.

  • Bumble Bee

    Craigslist feeds on providing that 'open-ness' to whoever wishes to post. That's why its now getting some bad publicity of the 'adult' material that's been on it.

    I believe part of the reason is because it is free. Free often means no obligation. That can be bad.

    I'll prefer something cleaner and charging at least a small fee, like this one I found at piref.com

    Pretty useful features too.



  • Craigslist is good at what it aims to do, but it's not always the most effective way to produce a classified type of ad. You are correct about the BYOFilter--sometimes you may rise upon something you weren't really seeking. ;)

  • Great find!

    Dating is such a local activity - newspapers should be leading in this area. If newspapers were smart, they'd use a white labeled or open source online dating solution, charge nothing for it, and run complimentary ads inside the app.

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