Craigslist founder and the urban newspaper myth

If "video killed the radio star," is craigslist killing U.S. newspapers by choking off valuable classified advertising revenues? Craig Newmark, founder of the popular listing site told David Mathison (at right with UNO students last week) of Be The Media that the claim has "become an urban myth."

Newmark's response was to my question on Mathison's new blogtalkradio call-in show, and you can hear the archived interview. About 39 minutes into the March 3 program, Mathison relays my emailed question: "Did you know you'd be so successful driving people away from newspaper classifieds and on to craigslist?"

"Well, I have to challenge the premise there," Newmark said. "I've spoken to a lot of newspaper editors and publishers who say that the extent of our effect on the newspaper business has been pretty exaggerated." It's at this point that Newmark adds, "It's become an urban myth."

For sure, craigslist is one of many factors impacting the revenue decline. Realtors, auto dealerships and other major newspaper advertisers have discovered the social media lesson. It is far cheaper and often more effective to market directly to customers through email, websites and other means.

"As for an effect, I mean the real effect," Newmark added in his soft voice, "I had no clue as to anything that was going to happen, no clue at all."

Newmark told Mathison that his "focus is basically customer service and generally serving our community." It's a model that Newmark has cutlivated for 15 years: "the deal is to figure out what needs to be done, do it, and then listen to the feedback and do more of it." If only our local newspapers had learned earlier to follow Newmark's lead, they would have been quicker to respond to change by listening to all of us.

Do more of what customer feedback says. "That's what I think about," Newmark said.

Mathison last week visited the University of Nebraska at Omaha for a talk that was sponsored by the School of Communication and the Omaha Press Club. Here are data supporting Newmark's comments.

March 3, 2010

1 comment:

O! said...

Wow. Very interesting. We'll have to discuss this one further next week too.