Craigslist.org single-handedly destroyed the giant newspaper classifieds

Mick Gregory

“You took over our advertising — now are you going to take over our news?” — a question from a San Francisco Chronicle journalist to Craig Newmark, founder and CEO of craigslist.org.

“We took a straw and drained your milkshake,” from “There Will Be Blood.”

Craigslist.org has dominated the classified advertising market with its free listings for everything from real estate — to jobs — to personals. Big city newspapers, like the SF Chronicle have been crippled by this new kid on the block.

How much traffic does craigslist get?
A: More than 10 billion page views per month

Q: How does that compare with other companies?
A: craigslist is #8 worldwide in terms of english-language page views

Q: How many people use craigslist?
A: More than 40 million each month, including more than 30 million in the US alone

Q: How many classified ads does craigslist receive?
A: craigslist users self-publish more than 30 million new classified ads each month

Q: How many job listings does craigslist receive?
A: More than 2 million new job listings each month

— The Q&A is from Craigslist.org

The average user/reader spends so much time on the site–about five days a month, 20 minutes per day–the site ranks a startling seventh in terms of monthly page views. This is 4 billion page views per month. A billion here, a billion there, now we are talking about real readership numbers.

So how exactly does Craigslist make money?

By charging $25 for job postings in six of its largest U.S. markets and $75 for job listings in San Francisco and by assessing a $10 fee for brokered apartment listings in New York City, according to their website.

Classified advertising was the real money-maker for newspapers. Want ads, are the little ads placed by individuals. They were not only the most profitable for newspapers on a word-for-word basis, they also generated great readership numbers, a fact that was lost on ALL of the newsrooms in America. The editor-centric news “executives” had not bothered to do any research on the readership of the ads that paid their salaries. They mocked MBAs, IT and celebrated BAs from America’s most liberal J-schools.

The arrogant editors who “manage” the entire newspaper enterprise, didn’t have a clue. They thought that they called the shots. People were paying 25  cents to read the ads just and a few pages of news and entertainment.

This just in from the Washington Post:

Let’s not bury the lead: This is a rough time for the newspaper business, a rough time for The Washington Post and a rough time for me.

No one need shed any tears for the people leaving this building. The more than 100 journalists who have just taken early-retirement packages are voluntarily accepting a generous offer as the company trims its payroll — a situation far better than at newspapers that have resorted to layoffs.

With advertising revenue sinking and classified competition from the likes of Craigslist, newspaper market values are taking a hit. Avista Capital Partners, which bought the Minneapolis Star Tribune 14 months ago, recently had to write down 75 percent of its investment. The purchase price had been $530 million; the previous owner, McClatchy Newspapers, paid $1.2 billion for the paper in 1998.

That’s just a few pieces to the puzzle of what went wrong. It’s not unlike the fall of family-owned business, where the next generation of trust-fund brats drain the profits and only find interest in the fun, ivory tower aspects of the business.

In these sob stories of more layoffs, there isn’t any mention of the marketing/advertising departments, because the editors have no interest in that aspect of the media.

If newspapers were run like real companies, there would have been “big picture” studies of trends and competition. How’s this for an idea, cut out five top level editors and buy 100 servers, two webmasters and one internet marketing guy.

What a concept.

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