snide but informative article from "SF Weekly"
Saw this article all around town as the cover story on a prominent local weekly, and I thought it might be of interest....
I should state up front, though, that I hesitated a lot before posting this. I don't like the "SF Weekly," and I don't like the article's gratuitously sarcastic and all-knowing tone. I won't be insulted if one of the mods feels the post should be deleted. I don't want to start a bunch of political arguments.
That said, this is the longest piece, at any rate, that I've read about Craig's List, and it has some info I haven't seen elsewhere related to what's going on in the local web vrs newspaper area.
|For citizen journalism to work, readers must believe the words on the screen to be true. Otherwise, the movement will do little to aid the hobbling traditional media. |
I wish I could find the thread I started a year or so ago on the issue of "what is the truth and how do you know it when you see it"? I haven't been able to find it despite some considerable digging.
It was an effort to address this very issue and went on at some length. I'd like to find and revive it.
If anyone has the tools to find the thread I'd be grateful.
The whine was certainly irritating. I had to take reading breaks to get through it.
The major points (to me):
* classifieds are a minor (though profit heavy) newspaper revenue stream but rather than lower those rates they layoff employees, including editorial and news staff.
* some papers are now going online with competing product and drawing back many of their customers.
* that the .org tld is being tarnished by commerce.
* that Craigslist is expanding into new markets and targeting very specific commercial revenue streams while keeping the bulk of listings free.
* that having altruistic concerns and being profitable is wrong.
* being a 50-something successful geek is humorous/pitiful.
* that this one guy and his computer in an unfinished room can hurt the newspapers' bottom line seems to really really agravate the writer.
Interesting that the newspaper "wars" that drove most markets to one news daily and the loss of thousands of jobs over the past umpteen years are not mentioned. The market is (always) changing, some get it, many don't.
Somewhere in there was lost a great piece on the changing face of publishing, the growth and changing dynamics of Craigslist, or both. Rather sad.
This lament is beyond pathetic; I couldnt finish it. I didnt get much past this:
|The average person who posts an apartment for rent on Craigslist has no clue that the decision affects her local newspaper |
Nor should they care.
Unfortunately the big non-family owned papers in their drive to turn bigger profits have consolidated news offices and driven down the quality of their reporting, which doesn't make you want to go pick up any of the newspapers anymore.
Not too long ago there was an anti-blogger article on one of the major news sites. And with Google Base out, and MSN following close behind with a classifieds product, I think I'd be worried as well.
Traditional news media is seeing the handwriting on the wall and they're reacting as if it's being written with their blood. Maybe it is.
Not sure if any of the SES out of towners noticed today, in our lovely local rag The Chicago Sun Times. Front page, top story of the day:
"Blog Bullies Busted"
Anyway. I just thought this was a nice example of another print media outlet bringing to light anything negative about online media that they can get their hands on.
I don't like craig's list. Nice basic search sure - but it has inaccuracies in many of it's categories and is basically nothing more than a bunch of advert links, combined with info, certainly looks like a ton of link adverts.
Dunno why everyone raves about it so much - even Doug Richards ( of BBC2's Dragon's Den fame) claimed it was the best thing since sliced bread. My question is "Has he really studied it's search or did he just see it as 'big'"
|Dunno why everyone raves about it so much... |
Event_King - Craig's List was the first of its kind, and most classifieds in it are free... it's got an authentic community feel to it that's not matched by the slicker sites (like, say, Yahoo)... and you get all the space you want in the classifieds in a large legible font.
By contrast, the SF Weekly whose article complains about how Craig's List is "depriving" newspapers of tens of millions a year in revenue, offers miniscule classified ads in type so tiny you literally need a magnifying glass to read them. This is a no-brainer.
As I remember, CL's site search is crappy but more or less usable. That didn't seem to hinder WebmasterWorld too much. I don't think people who go to Craig's List worry much about search.
See this previous discussion in the Local Forum...
Why is Craigs List so successful?
>>was the first of its kind, and most classifieds in it are free<<<
It might of been the first of it's kind, but it wasn't anything 'new', as offline publications were offering classifieds years before the web came along. So nothing new about craig's list there. Sorry, but exactly what is so special about craig's list again?
A community it has, so it takes a loyal following as it probably needs something to keep tongues wagging.
Small classifieds, well the classified ads it serves are nothing but in your face. They haven't exactly got the ad serve balance right, but it's about money, not serving a community. A community can follow anything, especially when it's bored - having a loyal following doesn't guarantee success at all.
It's just not my cup of tea I'm afraid, and look/design probably has a lot to do with it...
After taking a closer look here is my take on Craigslist:
It has 3 components to it.
1. A classified Directory
2. A forum
3. A blog
These are generalised and the classifieds is split intothe following categories:
and it sells T-shirts too. What has selling T-shirts have to do with these other services..... In fact that alone make me think it's some affiliate guy running this and not a proper company, not that I thought that anyway because of the very amateurish design.
Seems it offers the same and less than Yahoo, MSN and other 1000 sites at least. It covers US, Canada, Europe, Asia and UK - so looks like it's attempting to be most things and appeal to the mass audience - nothing new there.
Every single section (as far as I can tell) has the same format of ads, er lots of $ dollar signs probably by affiliates flogging stuff. Yep, it's just a huge list of ads - what's so special about that.
Thing is my local newspaper offers me all this and just in case I need a worldwide option, Kellysearch buy/sell offering is just as good. I could name a few others that are just as popular as craigslist - I'm not saying it's crap, it's just nothing original that's all, in other words the idea has been copied from someone else.
Do you know how popular Craigslist is? They get Billions of page views a month. If I remember correctly it's in the top 50 used websites worldwide. I think you will struggle to find sites like it that are more popular.
I'm not being pro or anti Craigslist here, just pointing out a few things.
As for not liking the design, it's supposed to be simple and it doesn't seemed to have hurt them. Also the simple look and feel probably helps make people feel at ease, making them think it's non commercial.
On the point of commercialism, there isn't much that attracts a fee. Property in certain areas does but I think it's likely to be a while before they go down a fully commercial route (once they have a massive user base in most major western cities).
It hasn't made as big a splash in the UK as it has in the States, it will with time. When you consider that Craigslist serves around 500 Million page views a month to just 2 cities (SF/NY) it's frightening to think where it will be in a couple of years.
But you seem to think it's not all that, fair enough but I'd suggest you keep an eye on it if you are involved with Local Search. I'd kill to be in that position.
shut down your websites, all of you! You're hurting newspapers and mom and pop stores :)
why don't they blame Bill Gates for making PCs popular, and go even further down the line. Without them, Craigslist would not have caused papers to lose money.
Do you know how popular Craigslist is? They get Billions of page views a month. If I remember correctly it's in the top 50 used websites worldwide. I think you will struggle to find sites like it that are more popular
Yup - it's a biggy, and I found kellysearch's buy/sell classified in about 15 seconds.
As for not liking the design, it's supposed to be simple and it doesn't seemed to have hurt them. Also the simple look and feel probably helps make people feel at ease, making them think it's non commercial
What everyone forgets is that craigslist and the yells of this world started out when the web was young, before users started to have opinions on how something looked - they got away with it. Try throwing up some naff designed classified ads site these days - it wouldn't get much traffic if you did. The market is taken might have something to do with that also.
Yup it'll probably be big in the uk soon, but that's as people 'know it', it's a totally different story accomplishing that today - much tougher.
It's not something I'd go after as it's been done already and the owner of craigslist has the popularity, so it would require a totally new angle/gimmick to steal his visitors away to mine. I just know if I did go via that route, a ton of people would be saying "oh yeah he copied craigslist, what's different about that" my classified effort would probably hit the forums and be slated something cronic and I'm not about to do that to myself. Once you are seen as a 'me too', you've lost.
Very interesting article.
I love newspapers. I love the content, the ability to write in-depth articles and analysis, the ability to research topics, follow-up, uncover issues of significant importance and publish them on a long term basis.
Other sources can't afford to do this.
Newspapers are slowly atrophying. I won't say dying but they are definitely losing traffic to the web.
I also love Craig's List. I use it every week for my business. I've also used it for various classified advertising needs and it works great.
As with every industry it is the job of the industry to stay on top of competition.
As an advertiser in local media for over 20 years, including continuous advertising in the local major metro newspaper every single week...I have seen the newspaper lose enormous effectiveness as an effective advertiser.
We also have a website that over the last 2 years has been well optimized for local traffic.
Pre web the major metro newspaper was our #1 source for sales.
Currently the web accounts for about 60% of sales, referral business about 20%. That leaves little room for other local media sources and YP.
I have interacted with local media, our local newspaper, including some heavyweights within the company, and frankly to date I don't think they "get it".
I'm sure Craig's List has had a direct significant effect on Bay Area Press. I'm sure it has ultimately led to reductions in staff.
Ultimately the papers need to come up with effective means to counteract this problem. Literally, you can't compete with free classified when you offer expensive paid classified.
At its max we spent about $2300/month on local classified w/our major regional newspaper. We are currently spending about 1/2 that and thinking of shrinking the expense because it is increasingly ineffective.
We have found a variety of web alternatives including Craig's List to replace the source.
In our case classified advertising was losing effectiveness way before we started using Craig's List.
In my mind the newspapers need to rethink their relationships and service w/advertisers.
I don't blame Craig's List at all. In fact they are providing an incredible free service that benefits millions.
When do Craigs List begin charging for this? There has to be somthing in this for the owner - another site on the back of it?