I just finished reading an intriguing open letter from Steve Outing. The letter was addressed to Craig Newmark, who is the founder of Craigslist. Outing suggest that Craigslist considers four things that could help save Newspapers. Although he attributes the downturn of the newspaper industy on Craigslist, he also considers Craig Newmark a compassionate member of society. Here are his thoughts:
- Allow local newspapers to scrape Craigslist ads
- Allow consumers to place ads on Craigslist via newspaper websites
- Add links on Craigslist to newspaper website classified sections
- Add a news component to Craigslist
Let’s break these four suggestions up for a moment.
Allowing newspapers to scrape Craigslist ads seems simple enough, the technology is there. However, how would this benefit Craigslist? Will Craigslist have to raise their prices on the listings they charge for, since the poster “might” have greater viewership (doubt they can get better viewership anyways). Why would Newmark want to build up someone elses brand. The only benefit is for the newspapers to fluff up their own classifieds. If the newspapers were able to come up with a decent amount of money for the right to scrape Craigslist and make it worth it, perhpas Newmark would accept this. We all know that would take the their board of directors a year to decide.
Allowing consumers to place ads on Craigslist via newspaper websites wouldn’t be necessary and doesn’t seem to be an appetizing way to get Newmark to adhere to the above suggestions. Craigslist currently gets millions of postings a month, and the few that might eventually come from the newspapers wouldn’t really benefit the behemoth.
Adding links on Craigslist to newspaper classified sections……WHY? This is ZERO benefit to Craigslist.
Adding a news component to Craigslist. Although this would seem like a great way to get community editors, sometimes the community exaggerates news to make it beneficial for their services and/or products.
What many folks forget is that society slowly drifted from newspapers to get an unbiased view from user generated content sites like Blogs, and online News Letters. Outings open letter is excellently put, but he should consider that Craig Newmark has publicly stated that he feels Craigslist has had a minimal impact on newspaper classifieds. Classifieds do not kill newspapers. Poor reporting and journalists do. Give readers something of value and they will stay loyal. Craigslist provided millions of its users the ability to post free ads in most categories. Newspapers charge for these ads. The users posting the ads are not journalists, and mainly want to just post/sell their items and leave. Therefor it should be the responsibility of the Newspapers to provide better content and leave the free classifieds to Craigslist. Maybe this new trend of Media companies buying out independent bloggers is proof they need independent bloggers to write their stories!
Asking Craigslist to help save the newspapers classifieds business, is like asking the newspapers to go save the forests.