Newspapers should Repurpose Craigslist to save their classifieds

craigslistrssCraigslist has totally changed the way customers approach classifieds. We now expect to get free ads with an unlimited runtime. They must be searchable, and easily browsable. Print newspapers can’t hold an candle to the easy of use, or the price.

RevenueTwoPointZero, a new consortium (@rev2oh) that aims to invent new business models for the news industry has stated that one of their goals is to "build a better Craigslist." I suggest that this is an exercise in futility.

Craigslist is an established social network. Trying to take them on is a bit like saying you want to build a better facebook. The idea that you can build a website, no matter how much better that doesn't use the old social paradigm is ludicrous. No one is going to use both sites, and no one is going to move to a new site that doesn't have all their friends on it. Same applies to a new craigslist.

But, in looking at newspapers as a platform, a portal to their community, there becomes an obvious way to utilize Craigslist to the mutual benefit of the customer, newsorg, and Craigslist.

Craigslist offers an RSS feed of every location they provide service, drilling down to particular categories. A newsorg could easily take the data off these feeds and repost it on their own classifieds site. Put some nice styling on it, and you could make a site that was a lot more attractive, and easier to use that craigslist itself. Ease-of-use alone, would encourage people to visit your site over Craigslist.

Monetizing

The next step, is to offer ‘sponsored listings’ for craigslist ads. Charge a nominal fee, and the listing can be pinned to the top of the list, made a different color, bolded, or given a picture.

Naturally, a revenue sharing deal would have to be worked out with craigslist – who should gladly assent. Ideally, the ad would get greater visibility on both sites.

  • Craigslist would get more eyeballs on their ads, and could get additional revenue from sponsored listings.
  • The newsorg get access to the most popular classifieds network on the web, and has the opportunity to earn revenue from a source that has been largely lost.
  • The customer gets a better interface for their classifieds, as well as being able to access the information through their community portal as opposed to an outside site.

Phase two of this plan sees the classifieds being integrated with the newsorgs own social media platform – allowing customers to know who they are buying from.

But wait, isn’t this stealing?

It’s not really stealing content. This is deep-linking. A mind-set of bloggers that newspapers are only just beginning to utliize. Newspaper content gets posted on aggregators all the time, with no compensation. This proposal intends to do same thing with craigslist, only better; and more fair.

Offering craigslist a part of the cut from 'sponsored listings,' and both parties are going to see increased revenue. This sort of deep linking is what the web is built on. You're not stealing craigslist content, you're saying: "we like it so much, we want more people to see it."

Further, unlike newspaper websites, craigslist doesn't make its money off display ads. They really don't need the pageviews to generate revenue. That makes the reposting of their content a very different thing than an aggregator reposting a newsorg's content.

Besides, Craig Newmark has said, his company has had an impact on the news industry. He wants to help. Suggesting a mutually beneficial relationship between craigslist and newspapers might very well be met with graciousness and excitement.

Newspapers should Repurpose Craigslist to save their classifieds

Joey Baker

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I write code most days. Prevously: photojournalist, EMT. Somewhat obsessed with jouralism.