Craigslist, PadMapper and the perils of not changing

Craigslist is like few other companies on the internet. A relative senior citizen by age, Craigslist’s most unique trait may be that it has managed to succeed and thrive with an interface that hasn’t been significantly changed in well over a decade.

On a consumer internet where the only constant is change, Craigslist is a rare example of a company that has managed to stick by a “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach to its product and thrive.

But what if Craigslist’s product is broken?

Craigslist’s growing PR problem

Craigslist is an internet icon, and it’s a unique one. Despite the
rapid evolution of the internet over the past decade, Craigslist in
2010 still looks like Craigslist in 2000. The fact that Craigslist has
managed to thrive largely its original form is a testament to the value
it offers.

But Craigslist is under assault. And it’s not competitors who are
attacking. It’s politicians and the media. The reason: adult service
ads which many say are frequently used in the illegal trafficking of
women and children. And which many argue Craigslist continues to allow
because they’re a lucrative source of revenue.

Craigslist could face regulation with trafficking accusations

Newspapers haven’t been able to slow the rapid growth of Craigslist’s classified advertising, but regulators might have better luck. The ongoing battle to curb sex ads on Craigslist took a turn on Friday, with a new ad campaign protesting the company’s policies about adult advertising. That same night, a federal judge blocked Craigslist’s attempt to halt an investigation
into its “adult services” section.

If regulators have their way, this could cut into a third of Craigslist’s earnings.

Can the Grey Lady sell display ads to hyperlocal businesses?

new york times self service advertisingHard to argue with a $5 CPM for advertising on a New York Times property, even if the ad run on its portfolio of hyperlocal properties. But what do the butcher, baker or candlestick maker know from CPMs?

The Times just announced on The Local, its clutch of microregional, citizen-journalism blogger sites, that it plans to make display advertising easy, self-service, and cheap. It’s inviting nieghborhood dry cleaners and hardware merchants to design, post, and allocate a capped budget to ad campaigns targeted to neighborhood audiences.

Q&A: Craig Newmark, Founder of craigslist

In 1995, Craig Newmark started an email distribution list for events in the San Francisco Bay Area. It moved to the web in 1996. Today, the non-profit company’s classifieds community – craigslist, in case you hadn’t guessed – is available in over 500 cities around the world.

We briefly caught up with Craig in advance of his appearance at next month’s Traveling Geeks roundtables hosted by Econsultancy in London (other participants include Robert Scoble, Howard Rheingold and Susan Bratton). Here he answers a few questions on craigslist’s history, Web 2.0 and dealing with customers.

Craigslist turns classifieds and trust into $100 million in 2009

Craigslist’s business model may not seem aggressive — most of the classifieds site’s content is posted free — but its community-based model is on track to rake in revenue this year. is projected to earn $100 million in revenue according to a study by the AIM Group.

And part of the secret sauce is in the Craigslist community. Instead of focusing on generating revenue, Craigslist says it relies on
“local communities to suggest ways to make money without compromising
craigslist” And that appears to be working, and CEO Craig Newmark says that he is “constantly engaged in community service,” and the site is heavily focused on engaging its community of users.

Most postings on the site are free, but the company charges recruiters
and real estate brokers in major cities between $10 and $75 to post job
and property listings. 80% of the projected revenue is expected to come
from the more than 1 million job listings Craigslist posts a month,
with real estate making up the remainder.

In contrast, newspaper ad revenues are down 29%, according to the
Newspaper Association of America.

What you can learn from Craigslist’s controversy

By now, just about everyone involved in online media has heard of the ‘Craigslist killer‘. It’s a tragic story that has sparked a debate about Craigslist and the way it manages its online community.

It’s a touchy subject. There are more than a few people who believe
that Craigslist is helping to facilitate these crimes by providing a
hands-off environment. And there are more than a few people who
believe that Craigslist simply offers a website and can’t be held
responsible for the actions of the people that use it. Good and
passionate arguments are made on both sides.